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There were two Benjamin Franklins, one 
the shrewd, versatile man known to his 
American contemporaries, the other the 
legendary figure the French contrived to 
make of him. 

Here Mr. Aldridge extricates the real 
Franklin from the myths, misconcep- 
tions, legends with which French adora- 
tion surrounded him. The task is thor- 
oughly done and the author, in the 
process, provides a lively and impressive 
contribution to the already vast literature 
about Franklin. 

During his residence at Passy, Franklin 
was the rage of France, the recipient of 
oceans of adulation, and he still remains 
the best-known American to the French. 
This worship of him had a hard core of 
intelligent understanding and appraisal 
of the man, based on real knowledge and 
response to his many great qualities. But 
round that core accumulated a vast 
accretion of misconceptions, sentimen- 
tality, invention and sheer mythomania. 
The worshiping French put him on a 
pedestal as a symbol of what they wanted 
to believe in. 

FRANKLIN and his French Contemporaries 


and his 
French Contemporaries 



Washington Square 

1957 by New York University 

Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 56-10778 

Manufactured in the United States of America 


My research in French Archives was in large measure 
made possible by a Fulbright grant in 1952-1953 and a 
sabbatical leave from the University of Maryland in 
1954-1955. 1 had in addition a grant from the Ameri- 
can Philosophical Society. 

The friendly atmosphere of the Institut de Littera- 
ture Comparee of the Sorbonne encouraged me in the 
writing of this book, and I received a number of help- 
ful suggestions from Professors Charles Dedeyan, M. 
Le Breton, and Henri Roddier. 

I respectfully dedicate my work to my former col- 
leagues at the Universite de Toulouse and the Univer- 
site de Clermont-Ferrand, the institutions where I 
served as Fulbright lecturer. 


1 Introduction 


2 Franklin's Debut in France 

3 Poor Richard 

4 Franklin's Diplomatic Mission 

5 Franklin's Opinion of France 


6 Polly Baker 

7 Fiction 

8 Poetry 

9 Drama 

friends 9 recollections and conversation pit 

10 Franklin's Memoirs 

1 1 Bagatelles 

1 2 Anecdotes 

13 Eulogies 

14 Conclusion 



As Voltaire in the eighteenth century stood as a symbol of the 
Philosophic Enlightenment and is now considered an intellectual 
precursor of the French Revolution, so his American contempo- 
rary Benjamin Franklin represented the Anglo-Saxon manifesta- 
tion of the same spirit and ideals. Condorcet, who knew both 
men, regarded each as "the apostle of philosophy and tolerance" 
in his own hemisphere. 1 Franklin, like Voltaire, "had often used 
the weapon of humour, which corrects human folly, and teaches 
us to regard perversity as the most pernicious folly. . . . He had 
honored philosophy by the genius of science, as Voltaire by that 
of poetry. Franklin succeeded in delivering the vast areas of 
America from the bondage of Europe, and Voltaire in delivering 
Europe from the ancient theocracies of Asia/* Although few, if 
any, Frenchmen considered Franklin as a match for Voltaire as 
satirist, wit, or literary craftsman, most French contemporaries of 
the two philosophes admired Franklin as the more versatile 
genius. Franklin was heralded not only as a man of letters, but 
also as a scientist, as a practical moralist and master of economic 
theory, and as a diplomat respected by the entire court. 

For this reason two dramatic meetings of Franklin and Voltaire 
became enshrined as popular anecdotes, resembling legendary 
tales of the gods and heroes of antiquity. Once Franklin visited 
Voltaire on his sickbed and asked for the blessing of the French 
sage upon his grandson; once at a public meeting of the Academy 
of Science the two men were called upon by a spontaneous dem- 
onstration of the assemblage to embrace a la franfaise. Several 
versions of each incident exist, contributing to the fabulous na- 
ture of the encounters. 

In February of 1778, Franklin, accompanied by his grandson 
William Temple Franklin, then eighteen years old, asked Voltaire 
to give the youth his benediction. In the presence of twenty wit- 
nesses profusely shedding tears of sensibility, Voltaire, according 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 239. 



to his own statement, pronounced only the words, "Dieu et la 
libert." 2 Another report has it that he said, "Mon enfant! Dieu 
et la liberte," 8 and it is possible that he added, as Condorcet 
asserted, "this is the only appropriate benediction for the grand- 
son of M. Franklin." 4 La Harpe, drawing on the Journal de 
Paris, reported the benediction as, "Mon enfant, Dieu et la li- 
bert<; souvenez-vous de ces deux mots." 5 According to Condorcet, 
since the two sages had been speaking English, Voltaire pro- 
nounced the English words "God and Liberty.' 5 6 It had been Vol- 
taire, according to the Journal de Paris, who had chosen English 
as the mode of communication. His niece, feeling that the other 
spectators might wish to profit by the exchange of greetings, 
begged him to speak in French. "I ask your pardon," replied 
Voltaire; "I gave way a moment to the vanity of speaking the 
same language as Monsieur Franklin." 7 Les Memoires secrets, 
a periodical collection of scandal and personalities, true to its 
sensational character, gave a caustic account of the episode, one 
of the few uncomplimentary pictures of Franklin in French let- 
ters. Franklin "by a base, indecent and puerile adulation, and, 
according to certain fanatics, by a derisive impiety, asked Voltaire 
to give his benediction to the child. The philosopher, playing out 
the scene no less thoroughly than the doctor, got up, placed his 
hands on the head of the little innocent, and pronounced with 
emphasis these three words, 'God, Liberty, and Tolerancer " * 
Surely a touching scene played with a "little innocent" of eight- 
een years, an illegitimate son and illegitimate grandson, who 
seven years later was to become in his own right the father of an 
illegitimate son. 

The histrionic overtones of the scene were emphasized in 
another contemporary account, spuriously attributed to the 
Marquise de Cr^quy, In her memoirs, Franklin's grandson is 
said to be four years old, and Franklin's request is interpreted 
as a species of ridiculous adulation. "The patriarch of Ferney no 
less theatrical than the American philosopher, rose up with a 
hierophantic air; he placed his two hands on the head of the 
little man, and began to cry out at the top of his voice in tones 
of the devil with a cold, Libert, Tolerance et Probit( " 

As a result of the wide publicity given to this encounter, an 
admirer of Franklin wrote to him from Naples, suggesting that 


Franklin had introduced his grandson to Voltaire so that the 
young man might be able to say of Voltaire as Ovid had said of 
Virgil, "Virgilium vidi." 10 

The two sages met again April 29 of the same year at a public 
meeting of the Academy of Sciences. Although the name of neither 
is entered in the register of the Academy as being present that 
night, at least three eyewitness accounts leave little doubt that 
the encounter took place. A young student from the provinces 
in a letter to his father described the physical appearance of the 
two principals. 11 Franklin's simplicity stood out. He wore a plain 
suit of dull yellow cloth, a white hat, blending with his grey hair, 
and no adornments of any kind. He was quite corpulent in strik- 
ing contrast to Voltaire, whose meagre bones were barely covered 
by a ghostlike skin, withered by eighty-four years of arduous liv- 
ing. Condorcet, in viewing the two patriarchs side by side, was 
struck by resemblances rather than contrasts. 12 Born in different 
worlds, each was respected for his age, his glory, and the employ- 
ment of his talents, and each reflected with pleasure on the in- 
fluence he had exercised on the century. As they embraced amid 
"noisy acclamation, one would have said that it was Solon who 
embraced Sophocles. But the French Sophocles had destroyed 
error and advanced the reign of reason; and the Solon of Phila- 
delphia, supporting the constitution of his country on the im- 
movable foundation of the rights of man, had no need to fear 
that he would see its uncertain laws during his own lifetime pre- 
pare chains for his country and open the door to tyranny." The 
analogy to Solon and Sophocles must have been commonplace, 
for it was used also by John Adams, future president of the United 
States, who, as joint commissioner with Franklin in Paris, was 
on the scene. He wrote in his diary: 

There was a general cry that M. Voltaire and M. Franklin should 
be introduced to each other. This was no satisfaction; there must be 
something more. Neither of our philosophers seemed to divine what 
was wished or expected; they however took each other by the hand. 
But this was not enough. The clamour continued until the explana- 
tion came out: II faut s'embrasser a la fran^aise. The two aged actors 
upon this great theatre of philosophy and frivolity then embraced 
each other by hugging one another in their arms and kissing each 
other's cheeks, and then the tumult subsided. And the cry inline- 


diately spread throughout the kingdom, and I suppose all over 
Europe: Qu f il est charmant de voir embrasser Solon et Sophocle." 1S 

The comparison was not inappropriate; apart from his incon- 
testable reputation as a master of the classic theater, Voltaire 
himself maintained that his intellectual masters were Sophocles 
and Socrates. 14 

Voltaire's great reputation rested in some measure upon re- 
spect bordering upon fear. He had fought his way to popular 
esteem, not, to be sure, with the bludgeon force of his personality 
like Dr. Johnson in England, but with the rapier-like thrusts of 
his wit. Franklin's reputation rested upon love and affection. He 
had ingratiated himself into the hearts of the populace as well 
as the court; he was loved for his personal modesty and simplicity 
and for the simple ideas and appeal to common understanding 
in his literary works. This phase of his public personality was 
well expressed by Mme. Tussaud, creator of the famous London 
waxworks, who claimed to have known all of the most talented 
men in France before the Revolution. "Statesmen, authors, men 
of learning and science, metaphysicians, political enthusiasts, and 
even the populace," she wrote, "crowded to obtain a sight of the 
republican delegate; and the richest embroidered suit was an 
object of insipidity and passed unnoticed, whilst the simple garb 
of Franklin was the theme of admiration. 'He unites/ said the 
people, 'the deportment of Phocion to the wisdom of Socrates/ " 15 
Both the disciples of Voltaire's philosophical iconoclasm and 
moral rationalism and the exponents of Rousseau's primitivism 
and social and psychological sentimentalism found in the work 
and personality of Franklin an expression of their cherished spe- 
cial beliefs. 

The manifold accounts of the two interviews of Franklin and 
Voltaire and the impressionistic terms in which they are de- 
scribed illustrate a major difficulty in tracing Franklin's career. 
As the deists said about conventional religions, when there are 
so many conflicting accounts and portrayals of the attributes of 
god, how can we be sure that any one is true? Since nearly all 
modern versions of the meetings of Voltaire and Franklin derive 
from the accounts of John Adams and Condorcet, an air of au- 
thenticity surrounds these episodes; yet all that can be assumed 


about them is that they represent fictitious elaborations contain- 
ing varying degrees of truth and embellishment. Other anecdotes 
of Franklin may be purely apocryphal. It is almost impossible to 
reach conclusions concerning the relation to historical fact of 
incidents which Franklin does not allude to in his own writings. 
In estimating Franklin's reputation, however, truth is of no more 
consequence than fiction. We are as much interested in learning 
what his contemporaries thought he said, did, or represented, as 
we are in knowing the true facts of his career. 

Franklin's glory survived in France long after his death. As 
late as 1864, a French critic gave vivid testimony to the tremen- 
dous extent and duration of his reputation. 16 

A strange thing, that such an enthusiasm, which in France ordi- 
narily has the duration and the eclat of a fuse, should be pro- 
longed from year to year, should be maintained and solidified, so 
to speak, to such a point that even today Franklin exists as a demi- 
god. He represents for everyone more or less the type and the 
model of all human virtues antique simplicity, good faith and sin- 
cerity. What is there in such a conglomeration of truth or of ex- 
aggeration, of sincerity or of artificiality? 

The answer to this question is to be found in the works of 
Franklin's contemporaries. The hundreds of references to the 
century's most famous American reveal that two, or possibly 
three, Franklins existed in French letters: first, the legendary 
Franklin, whose traits of character were based on his Way to 
Wealth and on a calculated pose that Franklin consciously 
adopted in Paris to create the impression that he was a rural 
philosopher or primitive patriarch. This pose he adopted in part 
because it suited the role he wished to play at court and in part 
because the French public expected him to conform to the char- 
acter of Father Abraham in The Way to Wealth. From this pose 
developed, secondly, the purely imaginary Franklin, the character 
adopted by authors of fiction and drama from the legend which 
Franklin had helped to create. Finally, the actual Franklin is re- 
vealed by means of the recollections, memoirs, and eulogies of 
his close friends and associates. Parallel to these in their effect 
upon Franklin's French reputation are the products of Franklin's 
own pen in France, particularly a group of light essayssome of 
which were composed in the French language written for the 


amusement of his Parisian friends. Equally important is his auto- 
biography, a large pan of which was written at Passy and the 
major part of which was published in French translation before 
an English version appeared in print. 

From another perspective we may speak of Franklin portrayed 
by the scores of journalists, critics, essayists, and dramatists who 
knew him only slightly or not at all and Franklin portrayed by 
the much smaller number of intimate friends who were able to 
describe his opinions, personality, and character from firsthand 
observation. Nearly all the writers of any consequence who dis- 
cussed Franklin, those including Turgot, d'Alembert, abbe Mo- 
rellet, Condorcet, du Pont de Nemours, La Rochefoucauld, and 
Cabanis, belong to the category of friends and close associates. 
Apart from the abb Raynal, Cerutti, and Marmontel, who may 
be considered authors of some distinction, the group who wrote 
about Franklin without an intimate acquaintance were by and 
large literary hacks and propagandists or well-meaning poets and 
dramatists of minor talents. 

Those who presented purely fictitious accounts of Franklin 
were obviously writers who lacked personal contact, and con- 
versely those who portrayed the real Franklin were associates who 
knew him intimately. But both groups to some extent perpetuated 
the legend of Franklin his pose of a primitive moralist. Barbeu 
Dubourg and du Pont de Nemours, to cite two examples of philo- 
sophic friends who corresponded extensively with Franklin and 
lived on intimate terms with him in Paris, both stress the patri- 
archal (to them almost avuncular) phase of Franklin's person- 
ality and consider The Way to Wealth as the serious expression 
of moral and economic ideals. 

The mass of facts, records, impressions, and feelings that com- 
bined to form Franklin's total reputation derives from both his 
legendary and his actual character. No previous attempts have 
been made to separate these two threads. Indeed the only works 
which have hitherto touched on the subject of Franklin's repu- 
tation in France are histories of his diplomatic negotiations and 
full-scale biographies, works in which Franklin's reputation has 
been merely an incidental concern. It is a commonplace that 
Franklin had great influence upon his French contemporaries, 
but the extent of this influence in thought and literature has 


never been traced. One or two anecdotes and newspaper frag- 
ments have been continually quoted and the obvious literary 
products, such as elegies, have been known as titles, but no at- 
tempt has been made to show the extent to which Franklin's 
name appeared in contemporary French letters or to suggest the 
spirit in which French authors approached their subject. 

It is possible to extract from biographical and historical ma- 
terials a completely new picture of Franklin's Gallic reception. 
We see that some of the opinions he expressed concerning his 
host country were widely disseminated and that constitutional 
theories attributed to him had a fundamental influence upon the 
French Revolution. His reputation passed through several clearly- 
defined stages. At first he was considered exclusively as a scien- 
tist, later as an economist, moralist and primitive philosopher, 
and finally as a shrewd diplomat and distinguished statesman. 
Although he eventually came to be regarded as a composite of 
these characters, the progress in individual steps may be clearly 
traced. His reputation as a scientist preceded his actual appear- 
ance in France, and during the course of his first visits in 1767 
and 1769 he became known as a moralist and economist. The 
physiocrats, his original friends and sponsors, helped to crystal- 
lize this conception by the publicity they gave to his portrayal 
of Indians and to kindred moral pieces. Franklin's early jour- 
nalistic work, which created for him the role of primitive philos- 
opher, became in French translation the basis of the pose he 
semiconsciously adopted throughout his later extended sojourn 
in France during the American Revolution. During this latter 
period, French journalists and historians gave full testimony to 
the respect they felt for his diplomatic abilities and political prin- 
ciples. Propaganda pieces that he himself inspired served further 
to spread his fame as statesman and journalist. Both complete 
strangers and literary friends and acquaintances contributed to 
the portrayal of this phase of his personality in French letters. 
Depictions of Franklin in his public character comprise a combi- 
nation of the real and the assumed, his concrete activities blended 
with his subconscious pose and legendary attributes. 

The portrayals of Franklin in belles lettres derive exclusively 
from his legendary character; even his Polly Baker sketch con- 
tributed to the French conception of Franklin as an exemplum 


of primitive rationalism. In France the double discovery was 
made that the sketch was a hoax and that Franklin had perpe- 
trated it. Had French authors not taken it up, it would probably 
have been lost to the literary world; certainly Franklin would 
otherwise never have had occasion to admit his authorship. The 
French authors who wrote about Polly without knowing that she 
was Franklin's creation fostered notions concerning the primitive 
reason and simple morality of the American milieu out of which 
the Franklin legend was constructed. 

Of the host of writers who celebrated Franklin in fiction, poetry, 
drama and allied forms, only Turgot knew him well. Turgot's 
tribute, a Latin epigram, is in itself graphic proof of the force of 
the Franklin legend. Five words elevate Franklin to epic stature. 
Although his achievements are compared to exploits of classical 
deities, his unassuming, human personality still predominates. 
He is a man invading the realms of supernal power and auto- 
cratic privilege for the benefit of his fellow men. 

Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis. 

(He seized the lightning from the sky, and the sceptre from tyrants.) 
Turgot found the legend of Franklin already formed; his epi- 
gram gave it unalterable and eternal character. Literally scores 
of poets imitated Turgot's line in French verse, and others turned 
their hand to original pieces. 

Authors of fiction presented Franklin almost exclusively either 
in caricature or in allegory. Propagandists against the American 
Revolution played up the ludicrous aspects of his diplomatic 
negotiation; court satirists ridiculed the superficial aspects of the 
legend surrounding him his alleged rural background, simplicity 
of manners, and humble demeanor. Allegorists and dedicators, 
on the other hand, eulogized him as the symbol of the political 
liberty of the new American nation. On the stage during the 
French Revolution, Franklin appeared as a stereotyped symbol of 
liberty and reason. 

We have said that the real Franklin is to be seen in his baga- 
telles, his memoirs, and in the recollections of his friends. These 
works present as close an approximation to the real Franklin as 
literary works may conceivably attain, but still they represent 
approximations. We cannot be sure that any one of Franklin's 


friends no matter how intimate or how observantcaptured the 
essence of Franklin's personality. Nor can we be sure even that 
Franklin in his own work revealed his fundamental nature his 
motives, impulses, desires, or opinions. Even if he were himself 
aware of all aspects of his nature a doubtful assumption to make 
about anyone he obviously made a careful choice of the elements 
to present to the public. His entertaining anecdotes concerning 
actual events in his early life, for example, may not have been 
consistently presented in their proper perspective. Certainly in 
his reminiscences elements of the Franklin pose are imperceptibly 
interwoven with historical fact. This explains the apparent para- 
dox that most of his bagatelles seem to be the work of a facetious, 
somewhat cynical wit; the autobiography, the work of a serious, 
somewhat parsimonious moralist. The recollections of Franklin's 
friends illustrate a similar paradox. All exhibit his private rather 
than his public or official behavior, but some reveal his frailties, 
his facetiousness; others his intellectual curiosity, his moral 
earnestness. The personalities of the authors themselves as much 
as the manifold aspects of Franklin's character explain these 

The eulogies appearing after Franklin's death exhibit similar 
variety. La Rochefoucauld presented a crisp, unemotional record 
of the major events in Franklin's life; the abb Fauchet limited 
himself to Franklin's moral and religious opinions and his legis- 
lative career; Condorcet stressed Franklin's ideology; Vicq d'Azyr 
covered all phases of Franklin's career including his scientific 
achievements. But all eulogists agreed with Mirabeau, who had 
made a dramatic oration in the National Assembly announcing 
Franklin's death, that Franklin was the symbol of the new order 
in France and America which he had in large measure helped to 
create the new order of political organization in which eminence 
is based not upon the accident of birth, but upon service and 



Journalist and Statesman 


The period of Franklin's glory in France was that of the Ameri- 
can Revolution, during which he represented his government at 
the court of Louis XVI. Here he was admired as moral philoso- 
pher, diplomat, and scientist. His literary reputation had pre- 
ceded him, however, by many years. While making his debut in 
France, he had been hailed first as a scientist and secondly as an 
economist; his reputation as moralist and diplomat came later. 
The spark that ignited the flare of Franklin's reputation in France 
was the appearance of a series of letters on electricity from Frank- 
lin to his friend Peter Collinson of the Royal Society. These had 
been published in London by Edward Cave in 1751 with the 
modest title Experiments and Observations on Electricity , made 
at Philadelphia in America. Buffon, who saw an imperfect French 
manuscript paraphrase of this edition, persuaded his friend Jean 
Francois Dalibard to undertake a more accurate version, 1 and in 
1752 the latter published a literal translation with "Approbation 
& Privilege du Roy." The King not only sanctioned the publica- 
tion of this work but asked that the experiments recorded therein 
be repeated for his special benefit; accordingly they were carried 
out in the King's presence by Delor at the Chateau de St. Ger- 
main. Louis XV was so delighted with this performance that he 
strictly commanded "the Abbd Mazeas to write a Letter in the 
politest Terms to the Royal Society, to return the King's Thanks 
and Compliments in an express manner to Mr. Franklin of Penn- 
sylvania, (Pensilvania) for the useful Discoveries in Electricity, 
and Application of the pointed Rods to prevent the terrible Ef- 
fects of Thunder-storms." So wrote Collinson in reporting the 
honor to his friend. 2 

During the same year in which the translation of Dalibard ap- 
peared, Franklin's experiments were described by the abb Man- 
gin in his Histoire generale et particuliere de Velectricite, 1752. 
Here Franklin receives a just measure of attention, but he is by 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 239. 



no means considered the most brilliant or the most advanced of 
contemporary electricians. The abb was particularly impressed 
by the experiment in the course of which Franklin killed a turkey 
that was on the other side of the Skuylkill river by means of an 
electric current. With the aid of his Leyden bottle he subse- 
quently lit the fire destined to roast the bird, and he drank the 
health of the electricians of the world in electrified glasses. "I 
think/' wrote the abbd, "that if Monsieur Franklin ever made a 
trip to Paris, he would not delay crowning his magnificent repast 
with a good coffee, well electrified." 3 The following year, 1753, 
Diderot in his Pensdes sur I 3 interpretation de la nature particu- 
larly mentioned the work of Franklin as an example of sound ex- 
perimental science. 

Dalibard brought out a second, greatly enlarged French edition 
of Experiences et Observations in 1756, and in 1773 Barbeu Du- 
bourg made a completely new translation as part of his CEuvres 
de M. Franklin, also with the "Approbation & Permission du 
Roi." On March 31, 1754, Dalibard wrote to Franklin that his 
name was justly reverenced by all French electrical experi- 
menters, except a small minority like the abb6 Nollet who were 
jealous of his discoveries, 4 and included a list of French scientists, 
among them Barbeu Dubourg, who wished to send their compli- 
ments. In the next year Franklin began to receive letters from 
other French admirers of his experiments. 5 

The story of the opposition to Franklin's theories by the abb 
Nollet, parallel to the opposition of Wilson in London, represents 
an interesting chapter in the history of science. Nollet, who here- 
tofore had been considered the French authority on electrical 
matters, felt personally aggrieved by Franklin's new theories, par- 
ticularly since his name had not even been mentioned in Frank- 
lin's book. As Franklin wrote in his autobiography, Nollet "could 
not at first believe that such a work came from America, and said 
it must have been fabricated by his enemies at Paris, to decry 
his system." e Nollet immediately set to work to disparage the new 
system, using methods not to be recommended for their honesty. 
He rigged apparatus at a public demonstration of Franklin's ex- 
periments and persuaded a set of henchmen to vouch that the 
experiments could not be verified. 7 Unfortunately for the abb, 
a nobleman who had witnessed the earlier successful demonstra- 


tion before Louis XV detected the imposture and exposed the 
abbe's dishonesty to the world. Nollet attacked Franklin also in 
his Lettres sur I' electricite (Paris, 1753), a collection of nine letters 
of which five were addressed to Franklin, and in papers presented 
at meetings of the Acad&nie Royale des Sciences; but Jean Bap- 
tiste Le Roy defended him at the Academic and eventually Nol- 
let's pretensions were completely silenced. 

Not until over a decade after the publication of Nollet's letters 
did evidence of Franklin's occupation with economic and moral 
problems cross the channel, shortly before his first visit to France 
in person. Apart from his scientific acquaintances, Franklin's 
sponsors in France were a group of physiocrats and philanthro- 
pists associated in publishing a monthly journal, Ephemerides du 
citoyeri; ou bibliotheque raisonnee des sciences morales et poli- 
tiques (1765-1772). Franklin's most intimate friends in this circle 
were Dr. Jacques Barbeu Dubourg, physician and translator of 
the first French edition of Franklin's works, who died while 
Franklin was still in France, and Samuel Pierre du Pont de Ne- 
mours, economist and editor, who, living through the era of the 
French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, perpetuated Frank- 
lin's name and achievements in a number of periodical publica- 
tions. The Ephemerides j described by its originators as "a critical 
and moral periodical work by and large in the taste of the Eng- 
lish Spectator," became the semiofficial organ of the physiocrats. 

The most precise statement concerning Franklin's intellectual 
relations with this group of thinkers appears in the Journal of 
John Baynes, an English visitor of Franklin in Passy in 1783. 
When asked about French publications on political affairs, Frank- 
lin replied that a series of excellent tracts on finance had given 
rise to a set of persons or a sect called economists. The members 
of this group, Franklin explained, 

held that if the people were well informed on matters of finance, it 
would be unnecessary to use force to compel the raising of money; 
that the taxes might be too great so great as in fact to diminish 
the revenue for that a farmer should have at the end of a year not 
only wherewith to pay his rent and to subsist his family, but also 
enough to defray the expence of the sowing, 8cc. fee. of next year's 
crop; otherwise, if the taxes are so high as to prevent this, part of 
his land must remain unsown, and consequently the crop which is 
the subject of taxation be diminished, and the taxes of course must 


suffer the same fate. Some of their principles, he observed, were 
perhaps not tenable. However, the subject was discussed thoroughly. 
The Marquis de Mirabeau was said to be the author of the system. 
Dr. Franklin waited on him, but he assured him that he was not 
the author originally that the founder was a Dr. Chenelle, or 
Quenelle [Quesnay]. The Marquis introduced Dr. Franklin to him, 
but he could not make much out of him, having rather an obscure 
mode of expressing himself. 8 

It was highly appropriate that the physiocrats should have spon- 
sored Franklin's debut in France since many of his dearest friends 
belonged to the group: Dubourg, du Pont de Nemours, Turgot, 
who later wrote the world-famous epigram on Franklin, and Mira- 
beau, author of an influential work of economics and philan- 
thropy, L'Ami des Homines, ou Traite de la population. The edi- 
tors of the EphemMdes liked to believe that Franklin subscribed 
to physiocratic doctrines, and they not only reprinted those of his 
works which exhibited common doctrines, but they made specific 
statements of Franklin's adherence to their views. The French, 
they affirmed, were the first to merge moral and political princi- 
ples into an exact science, but great economic truths were found 
also in the works of some eminent foreigners. "And who does not 
know/' they wrote, "that the English have today their Benjamin 
Franklin, who has adopted the principles and the doctrine of our 
French economists, a doctrine that he is so worthy of promul- 
gating and defending." 9 Turgot, however, sharply rebuked du 
Pont de Nemours for making this claim. "To announce to the 
public the opinions of a man like Franklin, one must either be 
commissioned by him to do so or be quite sure of his opinions. 
You are not yet cured of a sectarian spirit. I find, moreover, that 
you have not sufficiently taken advantage of the occasion to de- 
velop the question of colonies in extolling the opinions of Frank- 
lin, which are not at all in harmony with the true principles." 10 
Franklin himself never returned the compliment of du Pont with 
a rapturous endorsement of the physiocrats, but he did praise the 
Ephemtrides lavishly. In a letter to du Pont de Nemours in 1772, 
he wrote concerning the journal, "You are doing a great deal of 
Good to Mankind, for which I am afraid you are not duly re- 
warded, except in the Satisfaction that results from it to your 
benevolent Mind." 1X 

The first work by Franklin to appear in the Ephemerides was 


anonymous, and it is possible that the editors never knew who 
the author was. This is his letter "On the Price of Corn, and 
Management of the Poor," signed Arator, that had appeared origi- 
nally in the London Chronicle, November 27-29, 1766. It was 
sent to the Ephemerides in 1767 by Fabb M. "trs connu dans 
la Rpublique des Lettres." 12 Two years later it was noticed by 
an English reader of the Ephemerides (probably Benjamin 
Vaughan), who remarked on its prior publication in the London 
Chronicle and sent it to the English equivalent of the Epheme- 
rides, a now rarer periodical, De Re Rustica, or The Repository 
for Select Papers on Agriculture. Here it appeared in 1769 with 
a brief letter of introduction signed COLUMELLA, the ver- 
sion that is now reprinted in Franklin's works. The more exten- 
sive introductory remarks in the Ephemerides, however, present 
a more comprehensive view of the scope and background of the 
essay. Assuming that their readers were aware of the clamors 
and seditions in England consequent to the high price of grain, 
the editors analyzed the economic strife between the landholders 
and farmers on one hand and the manufacturers, artisans, and 
negotiators on the other. They interpreted the pleasantries of the 
English writer as a disguised serious attempt to reveal the true 
political means of preventing murmurs, seditions, and terrors of 
popular demonstrations. Probably the French editors contrived 
to present the English situation as more ominous than it actually 
was. Franklin's pleasantries conceal nothing more serious than a 
defense of free trade, and he seems to be less concerned with gen- 
eral political principles than with particular propaganda to pro- 
mote the export of grain. The extension of his principles of free 
trade to attack all forms of social welfare, however, represents a 
rather heartless attitude toward suffering humanity. Fortunately 
for the reputation of Franklin, this work appeared anonymously 
in France, and shortly before his death appeared another eco- 
nomic work attributed to him with a social philosophy quite the 
contrary. We shall speak of this work in our fourth chapter. 

The remaining works by Franklin in the Ephemerides were 
contributed by his friend and disciple, Dr. Jacques Barbeu Du- 
bourg. The two began a philosophical and personal correspond- 
ence in 1768 in the course of which they frequently exchanged 
literary works. In 1768 Franklin sent Dubourg some of his peri- 


odical pieces as well as an account of his famous examination be- 
fore the House of Commons on the subject of the stamp acts. 
This account had appeared in the London Chronicle, July 4 and 
7, 1767, and Dubourg translated it for the Ephemtrides, in which 
it was given the title "Des Troubles qui divisent I'Angleterre et 
ses colonies." 13 As a result of the opposition in America to the 
imposition of stamps on legal documents and printed matter, 
Franklin had been called before the House of Commons to give 
evidence during a period of four hours. His testimony does not 
support the principles of the physiocrats in great measure beyond 
its protests against restraints on trade and against benefiting one 
section of the nation at the expense of another, but it was printed 
in the Ephemerides probably out of respect to his character and 
abilities. The readers were promised detailed light on one of the 
most interesting events in recent times. 

. . . they will see what constitutes the superiority of intelligence, 
the presence of mind and the nobility of character of this illustrious 
philosopher, appearing before an assembly of legislators. Accus- 
tomed from childhood to fathom the truth in all the studies to 
which he has devoted himself, this wise American was struck, as 
soon as he was spoken to on the subject, by the chain of truth which 
during the last several years has reduced what is called the art of 
governing nations to an exact science. He has rapidly become one of 
the most skillful adepts of this sublime science, which in the coun- 
try of its birth has been subject to opposition which has failed to 
retard its progress and to which its defenders are reconciled by the 
pleasure of making converts of the weight and merit of M. Franklin. 

Judged by the footnotes in the Ephemerides, the most significant 
economic principle which Franklin brought out in his examina- 
tion is that taxes on commerce are always passed on to the con- 
sumer. Franklin's interrogators raised the question whether taxes 
in Pennsylvania were imposed on industry and commerce in 
order to place a restraint on English commerce. Franklin replied 
that these taxes were no more burdensome than those on real 
estate and that they were levied for revenue alone. The editors 
of the Ephemerides, however, suggested that this answer was 
evasive since the merchants' habit of passing taxes on to the con- 
sumer makes it impossible to tax profits. They maintained in op- 
position to Franklin that the taxes on commerce are more onerous 
than those levied directly upon the producer; the merchant will 


not only add the amount of the tax to his product, they argued, 
but will also demand a profit on the money he had advanced in 
taxes and on expenses o administration. Franklin may have been 
disguising his principles as the editors suggest, but it is more 
likely that the editors were trying to reconcile his words with 
their economic doctrines. Franklin seemed to justify taxes on 
commerce, whereas the physiocrats opposed them completely. 
This account of Franklin's appearance before the House of Com- 
mons is the only one of Franklin's pre-Revolutionary political 
works that enjoyed a wide circulation in France. After this initial 
publication, it was reprinted in Dubourg's edition of Franklin's 
CEuvreSj 1773, and in a number of later collections of Franklin's 
miscellaneous works, particularly those highlighting his Way to 
Wealth (Bonhomme Richard) and his Memoirs. 

The next work from Franklin's pen to appear in the Epheme- 
rides was his twelve "Positions to Be Examined," another work 
that had appeared first in the London Chronicle (June 29, i76g}. 14 
Franklin's twelve points have frequently been said to derive from 
the physiocrats, and certainly there are many similarities. 
Quesnay's fundamental maxim that all wealth comes from agri- 
culture, not industry, is matched by Franklin's fourth and fifth 
points, that riches are the product of cultivating the land, and by 
his twelfth, that agriculture is the only honorable means to ac- 
quire wealth. Quesnay's explanation of "gain veritable" as the 
exchanging of value for equal value is repeated in Franklin's defi- 
nition of fair commerce in his eighth point. The editors of the 
Ephemerides disagreed with Franklin on only one point, the 
tenth. In discussing fair prices, Franklin points out that one who 
is transporting one hundred bushels of wheat could make a larger 
profit by converting it first into flour than by carrying it as grain, 
for he could use easy and expeditious methods of manufacture 
not generally known. If strangers then buy his flour, they will not 
know how much time and effort were actually spent in the mill- 
ing, and the merchant may then impose on the buyer by placing 
a false valuation on the finished product and demanding more 
than a fair price. The physiocrats, who seemed to be further on 
the road toward modern capitalism than Franklin, felt that he 
was a little severe on the entrepreneur. "We believe that the one 
who has equally well executed something with more industry and 


intelligence and less labor and expense can in honor claim the 
same reward as the one who has expended more labor and less 
industry." Mental endowments like physical ones, they argued, 
are gifts of providence, and it is in the order of justice for those 
who have received superior gifts to have the right to enjoy them 
in bettering their condition and seeking their enjoyment, with 
the qualification, of course, that they do not usurp the rights of 
others. The stalwart porter who can carry 150 pounds has the 
right to charge double the man who can carry only 75. Maximum 
production is always to the advantage of society, and those who 
foster it are entitled to rewards. This justification of maximum 
profit is not really contradictory, they add, to Franklin's general 
thesis that "la valeur des marchandises ouvrees, n' off re que le 
remboursement des frais qu'elles occasionnent." Several years 
later Franklin's twelve points were circulated by Grimm in his 
Correspondance litteraire, giving the impression that this was 
an entirely new document presented under his auspices to French 
readers for the first time. 15 

In the Ephemerides during the same year, 1769, Franklin was 
cited by a French admirer, probably Dubourg, as an authority on 
rural life. In the first of two letters, March 12, 1769, the author 
supported the observation of a former contributor that it would 
be both useful and pleasant to live in an agricultural land with 
homes close enough for mutual aid, but separated sufficiently to 
avoid mutual annoyance and corruption. 16 After citing "New 
York" as a very prosperous country where there are no cities, he 
drew directly from Franklin to describe it as one of the flourish- 
ing American colonies in which the population doubles every 
twenty years. 

The inhabitants, although o European origin, scorn the closed-in 
life of city dwellers, heaped one upon another in attached houses. 
. . . They love to enjoy the life-giving air and the spectacle of nat- 
ural beauty which leads to the idea of its author and to the sweet 
and pure feeling of gratitude and respect for providence and of 
concern and love for our fellow-creatures which it has given us and 
who share with us its blessings. 

The author adds that the English have several times tried to force 
the inhabitants into cities, but the wise and simple citizens have 
refused to give up country life. Although the English have built 


forts and trading posts at Albany and elsewhere, these are inhab- 
ited only by professional soldiers and traders. "In no other coun- 
try of the world does one find more beautiful women, even at 
an advanced age, more well made and robust men, more elevated 
geniuses, more mellow characters, or more courageous hearts." 
This idyllic picture, purely literary and imaginary, undoubtedly 
came from primitivistic books and not from direct contact with 
native Americans. 

Franklin soon pointed out the enthusiastic excesses of this pic- 
ture, however, for in a later issue of the same year the author con- 
tributed a second letter to the Ephemerides correcting his state- 
ment that New York had no cities and giving a full description 
of the rural way of life in America. 17 The details of this letter 
were taken directly from "one of the greatest and the most en- 
lightened and the noblest men the new world has seen born and 
the old world has ever admired, the celebrated Doctor Benjamin 
Franklin." In this letter, undoubtedly one of the first realistic 
descriptions of the American way of life to appear in France, the 
author says in substance that he was mistaken about New York 
since it has in reality two cities, New York and Albany, that "the 
beautiful country which has no cities is Virginia," whose princi- 
pal community, Williamsburg, has only 200 houses, a college, and 
the colonial assembly. When the assembly is in session there is 
moderate activity, but afterwards the delegates return to their 
homes, and only administrative personnel and students and teach- 
ers of the college remain. The other communities in Virginia are 
scarcely hamlets, with never more than thirty houses. In these 
rural surroundings where nature permits ameliorations without 
number, where the advantage of one man is never at the expense 
of another, where all new labor assures an increase in the total 
production, and in social happiness, all human beings regard each 
other with a secret gratitude and satisfaction. These noble senti- 
ments determine the morals and culture of America. When a 
new family arrives in Virginia, all their future neighbors assem- 
ble to greet them, and over a three-day period they help them 
clear the land of trees and together construct a rough and sim- 
ple dwelling. After the first year this edifice becomes a barn, for 
in the meantime the proprietor has used the arts of carpentry to 
construct a second more comfortable dwelling. After ten years, 


the newcomer has a third house of stone and wood, completely 
European in design and commodiousness. 

In speaking o the future glory and prosperity of America, the 
author's vision is colored by physiocratic principles. Only a cen- 
tury and a half is needed, he asserts, to establish in America an 
empire more powerful than all of Europe today provided that 
when cities are finally established, the inhabitants resist the self- 
ish spirit of the middlemen who inhabit them, that they never 
be seduced by the view that human interests are opposed, that 
they constantly seek the greatest liberty for all, that they raise no 
social or racial barrier, and finally, that there be no economic 
restrictions, no protective tariffs or embargoes, no indirect taxes, 
with all taxes to be levied directly on the net product of the soil 
in such a way as to favor the prosperity of all those who work 
on the land. 

There can be little doubt that the original letter containing this 
documentation came from Franklin, since three years previously 
he had communicated its principal facts in a conversation that 
took place on a visit to Germany. Gottfried Achenwall, who had 
spoken at length with Franklin on this occasion, published the 
same details concerning American life in his Observations on 
North America, 1767. 18 

The general impression created by the Ephemerides, however, 
of America as a paradise of prosperity without arduous individ- 
ual labor Franklin undoubtedly regarded as unfortunate, and his 
famous Information to Those Who Would Remove to America, 
1782, was written in pan to counteract such rapturous impres- 
sions as this one. Not all of the physiocrats, moreover, were en- 
thusiastic about the Virginia article. Turgot in a letter to du Pont 
de Nemours (November 7, 1769) demanded ". . . what signifies 
all this beautiful eulogy of Virginia? Do you not know that this 
Virginia is a colony of negroes?" 19 

The editors of the Ephdmerides printed only two other works 
by Franklin works having very little in common and in their 
comments on these works reveal themselves in a curiously am- 
bivalent light. In considering Franklin's "Plan for Benefiting Dis- 
tant Unprovided Countries," the editors appear as realistic men 
of the world viewing Franklin's scheme as a form of visionary 
idealism; in considering a literary hoax of Franklin's, "An Ac- 


count of the Captivity of William Henry," in which he portrays 
American Indians as practical deists, the editors reveal themselves 
as credulous and sentimental romanticists. 

Franklin's "Plan for Benefiting Distant Countries" grew out 
of the discovery of New Zealand and the realization that the new 
land had no grain, fowls, or quadrupeds except dogs. 20 A group 
of humanitarian Englishmen felt that providence had charged 
them to communicate the advantages of their own country to the 
newly-discovered land. Among them, Franklin announced that 
"he would with all his heart subscribe to a voyage intended to 
communicate in general those benefits which we enjoy, to coun- 
tries destitute of them in the remote parts of the globe," and Dal- 
rymple offered to take charge of the expedition. He accordingly 
drew up a formal declaration of the aims of the expedition, 
showed it to Franklin, and the latter added an introduction. In 
commenting on this worthy design, the French editors agreed 
that it is not only more noble but more useful to conquer the 
hearts than to exhaust the strength and riches of a newly-acquired 
colony, but they felt that the project was suitable only for Eng- 
land, a land in which the people were really at ease and in which 
agriculture flourished. For other nations the project would be 
premature, since it would be absurd to carry products to the ends 
of the earth which are needed for home consumption. France, in 
particular, would be better advised to wait until wealth and pros- 
perity flourished at home before engaging in philanthropic proj- 
ects elsewhere. The printing of Franklin's project had far-reach- 
ing results. A Dutch nobleman, having read it in the Epheme- 
rides, wrote to Franklin (November 12, 1772) that although im- 
pecunious and burdened with four children, he coveted the honor 
of contributing four Holland ducats to the noble purpose. 21 

Franklin's hoax concerning Indians, a work in the literary tra- 
dition of the imaginary voyage, the editors of the Ephemerides 
accepted with great seriousness. 22 It is fortunate that they did so, 
for had they not reprinted it from the London Chronicle, where 
it appeared anonymously, it is possible that the work would never 
have been attributed to Franklin. 23 The focal point of Franklin's 
literary hoax is one of his richest and most original humorous 
narratives, a burlesque Indian cosmogony, which informs us that 
tobacco first appeared on the earth when and where the daughter 


of the Great Spirit first allowed her noble posterior to touch the 

Nine Oneida Warriors passing near a certain hill, not far from the 
head of Sasquehanah, saw a most beautiful young Woman descend 
naked from the clouds, and seat herself on the ground upon that 
hilL Then they said, this is the great Manitta's Daughter, let us go 
to her, welcome her into our country, and present her some of our 
venison. They gave her a fawn's tongue broiled, which she eat, and 
thanking them, said, come to this place again after twelve moons, 
and you will find, where I now sit, some thing that you have never 
yet seen, and that will do you good. So saying she put her hands 
on the ground, arose, went up into the clouds, and left them. They 
came accordingly after twelve moons, and found growing where she 
had pressed the ground with her right hand, corn, where with her 
left hand, beans; and where her back parts had pressed it, there 
grew tobacco. 

When the "Captivity of William Henry" appeared in the London 
Chronicle, Franklin attempted to foster the illusion that it was 
an extract from a complete book of 160 pages. Assuming the style 
of a reviewer, therefore, he introduced his remarks with a sup- 
posed condensation of the unessential narrative details of the 

This Writer, who is an Englishman, gives a plain short account of 
his education in human learning at an academy in Northampton; 
his settlement in America as a trader with the Ohio Indians; his be- 
ing surpriz'd and made prisoner at the breaking out of the late 
war; his spiritual change or conversion during his sickness and other 
afflictions; and then among a multitude of other particulars, re- 
lating to the Indians, says. 

Immediately after this introduction appear the pretended direct 
quotations from the imaginary William Henry. After three years 
of captivity, Henry had succeeded in learning the Indian language 
and in so doing had gained the respect of his captors. He fre- 
quently engaged in conversation with "Old Canusatego," a "War- 
rior, Counsellor, and the chief man" of the village. In real life 
this Canusatego had been an actual Indian chief whom Franklin 
had known on the Pennsylvania frontier in 1744. 24 He had been 
widely known for his skill in oratory, and Franklin in the "Cap- 
tivity" amuses himself with the picturesque declamations of his 


fictional counterpart. In other passages Franklin rather severely 
ridicules his principles o formal rhetoric. 

When not orating, Old Canusatego occupies a role similar to 
that of the King of the Brobdingnagians in Gulliver's Travels. The 
Indian chieftain would often enquire of his captive concerning 
"our wars, history, customs, arts, &c. and sometimes about our 
religious opinions." As Gulliver wished for the tongue of Demos- 
thenes or Cicero that he might justly celebrate the praise of his 
own dear native country, William Henry regretted his incapacity 
to reply to the chiefs questions because in his youth he "had so 
unhappily refused the advantage ... of acquiring store of di- 
vine knowledge under the pious instructions of Dr. Doddridge." 

One day while William Henry contemplates the Gulliverian 
task of making the Indians perceive the wisdom and goodness 
of European "regulation of commerce, by which one nation pro- 
poses to make advantage to itself in distressing the trade of oth- 
ers/' a young warrior begins a discourse on creation, the one 
which is printed above concerning the beautiful young woman 
descending from the clouds. This cosmogony is not allowed to go 
unchallenged, for all the young Indians laugh heartily at the 
origin of tobacco described therein, and Old Canusatego rebukes 
the narrator for telling this foolish Oneida tale to their white 
captive. "If you tell him such tales, what can. you expect but to 
make him laugh at our Indian stories as much as you sometimes 
do at his." To atone for the foolishness of the young warrior, Old 
Canusatego tells the true story of the beginnings of the country, 
prefacing it with a correction of William Henry's notion that 
there is but one "great good Manitta," usually called the "Great 
Manitou" in other Indian literature. 

If there were but one, how unhappy must he be without friends, 
without companions, and without that equality in conversation, by 
which pleasure is mutually given and received! I tell you there are 
more than a hundred of them. [Franklin's note: They commonly 
use a hundred to express any great unknown or indeterminate num- 
ber.] They live in the sun and in the moon; they love one another 
as brethren; they visit and converse with each other; and they some- 
times visit, though they do not often converse with us. Every country 
has its great good Manitta, who first peopled that country. 

After establishing a "good Manitta" to people every land, Old 
Canusatego continues with an account of the peopling of Akanish- 


ionegy, the land of the five Indian nations, an account which 
combines primitive animism with a crude form of scientific evolu- 
tion. Having dedicated the land to red men, who are the best of 
men, the good Manitta strewed the fertile fields of Onondaga 
with five handfuls of red seeds, like the eggs of flies. 

Little worms came out of the seeds, and penetrated the earth, where 
the spirits who had never yet seen the light entred (sic) into and 
united with them. Manitta watered the earth with his rain, the sun 
warmed it, the worms with the spirits in them grew, putting forth 
little arms and legs, and moved the light earth that covered them. 
After nine moons they came forth perfect boys and girls. Manitta 
covered them with his mantle of warm purple cloud, and nourished 
them with milk from his finger ends. Nine summers did he nurse, 
and nine summers more did he instruct them how to live. 

One does not have to be a Freudian to wonder how much of 
this imagery Franklin intended as sexual and embryological. On 
the surface, however, it remains simply a myth of cosmogony the 
Five Nations springing from the five different handfuls of seeds. 
In a loose paraphrase of the second chapter of Genesis, Old 
Canusatego pictures the great good Manitta assembling his five 
children, naming them (Mohocks, Oneidas, Sennekers, Cayugas, 
and Onondagoes), and providing each with a characteristic food- 
stuff. Manitta crowns his act of creation with a forecast of things 
to be. 

The bodies I have given you will in time grow old and wear out, 
so that you will be weary of them; or from various accidents they 
may become unfit for your habitation, and you will leave them. . . . 
I have enabled you therefore, among yourselves, to produce new 
bodies, to supply the place of old ones, that every one of you when 
he parts with his old habitation may in due time find a new one, 
and never wander longer than he chuses under the earth, deprived 
of the light of the sun. 

We may well pause at this point to inquire how much of this 
system of metempsychosis and pre-existence Franklin intended 
seriously and how much as straight burlesque. His cosmogony of 
the naked woman from the clouds is not a serious substitute for 
the first and second chapters of Genesis; neither is it a master- 
piece of primitive wisdom, as it was interpreted by the editors 
of the Ephdmerides. Franklin is having as much fun with the 
deists as with the orthodox in this work that is supremely eclectic 


in its humor. But although Franklin has rejected orthodoxy, he 
is still speculating on the plurality of worlds, and realizing the 
ethereal nature of his speculation, he finds amusement in his own 
attempts to solve the problem of life and individual identity. 
Metempsychosis and pre-existence are no more seriously intended 
than is the character of Old Canusatego himself. The latter is so 
wise and so philosophically erudite and he expresses himself with 
such vigor and grace that he could almost serve as an Indian 
Franklin. Yet just as Franklin ascribed some realistic traits and 
practical comments to the ancient chief, he probably thought 
seriously about some of the esoteric metaphysical concepts he in- 
troduces. He may, on the other hand, have been merely lightly 
mocking himself for retaining such esoteric notions, the persist- 
ence of which may have both annoyed and amused him. 

In the remainder of the work, Franklin discards metaphysics 
and tackles the economic system. Here his distress at moral defi- 
ciencies is genuine and earnest. He introduces an apologue con- 
cerning the discord caused by economic competition and greed, 
a narrative that in its sombre invective resembles the style of 
Swift. In this section Franklin repeats the same principles of free 
trade he had expressed in the earliest of his works to appear in 
the Ephemerides, "On the Price of Corn"; however, in suggest- 
ing that free trade could have prevented the commercial wars be- 
tween the English and the French, Franklin uses much stronger 
language than he had used in the mild and good-humored letter 
"On the Price of Corn." 

The concluding paragraph of the "Captivity" returns to the 
satirical method of Gullivers Travels. With obvious irony, Wil- 
liam Henry disclaims sympathy with the Indians and categorically 
asserts the superiority of western orthodox beliefs. 

Now it is well known that some who have before me been among 
these Indians, have reported highly of their stories, as if there were 
something superexcellent in them. I have therefore given this story 
of theirs at full length translated as well as I am able; and I can 
faithfully assure my readers it is one of their very best, by which 
may be seen the miserable darkness these poor creatures labour 
under, and how far inferior their best instructions do appear when 
compared with the unerring oracles that we possess, and the histo- 
ries contained in them. 


The editors of the EphtmMdes presented William Henry's 
adventures under the title, "Mithologie et Morale Iroquoises," 
remarking that they had first taken this "petit morceau de Phi- 
losophic" for a fairy story, but since it had been sent to them by 
Franklin they finished their reading and so discovered that it 
was a sample of Iroquois morality, "qui ne parait pas mal absurde, 
quoiqu'elle ne le soit peut-etre pas plus au fonds, que celles des 
Egiptiens, des Ph&iiciens, des Grecs fc des Romains, qui renfer- 
moient des principes tres sages & trs vrais, sous une apparence de 
folie extreme." 

The bibliographical history of this deft burlesque of the philo- 
sophical Indian in literature touches France at several points. 
Two years before the "Captivity of William Henry" appeared in 
the London Chronicle, Franklin had narrated his Indian cos- 
mogony to friends in Germany, and it appeared in AchenwalFs 
Observations on North America, i>j6>j. 2S He told it again in one 
of his most famous tracts, Remarks concerning the Savages of 
North America^* first published at Franklin's press at Passy in 
separate French and English versions. The title of the French 
version, Remarques sur la politesse des sauvages de I'Amerique 
septentrionale, emphasizes the characteristics of primitive nobil- 
ity which had delighted the editors of the Ephdmerides. The Re- 
marks was later printed in several editions in the same volume 
with Information to Those Who Would Remove to America. Pre- 
sumably Franklin did not intend either piece for general publi- 
cation. After learning of their appearance in London in 1784, 
he wrote to Benjamin Vaughan to inquire concerning the cir- 
cumstances of their being printed. The latter wrote to Franklin, 
November 21, 1784, "I know not who published your pieces on 
the Indians & on Imigrations, nor have I yet seen them. The lat- 
ter piece the Abb Morellet sent Lord Shelburne, from whom I 
had it; The Bishop of St. Asaph's family afterwards had my 
whole packet of your pieces for many weeks." 27 

One of the passages from the Remarks (but not in "William 
Henry") Franklin based on an actual event which had occurred 
at an Indian Treaty, a record of which Franklin published at his 
Philadelphia press in 1744. Nine years later he paraphrased the 
incident in a letter to Peter Collinson, May 9, 1753. In his 
Remarks Franklin incorporated this material, emphasizing the 


droll aspects of the scene to illustrate Indian politeness. The com- 
missioners at the close of the treaty had informed the Indians 
that there existed an academy at Williamsburg with funds for the 
education of Indians. They invited the Indians to send six of 
their young men to learn the language and customs of the white 
people. The day following, the Indians gave their reply. 

We are convinc'd . . . that you mean to do us Good by your 
Proposal; and we thank you heartily. But you, who are wise, must 
know that different Nations have different Conceptions of things; 
and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our Ideas of this kind 
of Education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had 
some Experience of it; Several of our young People were formerly 
brought up at the Colleges of the Northern Provinces; they were 
instructed in all your Sciences; but, when they came back to us, 
they were bad Runners, ignorant of every means of living in the 
Woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, knew neither how 
to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, spoke our Lan- 
guage imperfectly, were therefore neither fit for Hunters, Warriors, 
nor Counsellors; they were totally good for nothing. We are how- 
ever not the less oblig'd by your kind Offer, tho' we decline accept- 
ing it; and, to show our grateful Sense of it, if the Gentlemen of 
Virginia will send us a Dozen of their Sons, we will take great Care 
of their Education, instruct them in all we know, and make Men 
of them. 28 

While Brissot de Warville was employed in London as a rising 
young journalist he saw this passage in a London newspaper in 
1785. Translating it as "Anecdote sur les Sauvages de TAmerique 
septentrionale," he sent it to the Journal de Paris y where it ap- 
peared as an anonymous work, April 7, 1785. 

It is apparent that the sections of both the "Captivity" and 
the Remarks that appealed most to French readers were those ex- 
hibiting the naive wisdom of the Indians. The cosmogony of the 
beautiful woman descending from the skies is common to both 
works but serves two quite distinct purposes. In the "Captivity** 
it is derided, called a foolish Oneida tale, and contrasted with 
the rhapsodical discourse on metempsychosis and the origin of 
the Five Nations, whereas in the Remarks it stands by itself with 
no comment of any kind. Perhaps in the interim between the 
publication of the two works, Franklin realized that regardless 
of its absurdity or disharmony with his own religious beliefs, the 
tale had great narrative and character interest. Thus, in the 


Remarks it is told entirely for its own sake as an amusing anec- 
dote parallel to the preliminary narrative of the Indians refusing 
the academic advantages of the college at Williamsburg. The 
"Captivity" is a satire on universal human frailties exemplified 
by the religious myths of braves and missionaries and the eco- 
nomic policies of the British Empire, while the Remarks, on the 
other hand, is an amusing local color sketch of Indian character 
and customs. The "Captivity" bristles in the satirical vein of 
Jonathan Swift deriding the Lilliputians; the Remarks glows in 
the tolerant spirit of Joseph Addison discoursing indulgently on 
fans and patches. 

The editors of the Ephdmerides found in the "Captivity" only 
what they wished to find "Mithologie et Morale Iroquoises." 
No doubt this is what Franklin's friend, the due de La Roche- 
foucauld, later found admirable in the Remarks and led him in 
1784 to translate the work for Franklin's private press at Passy. 


With the publication of the fragment, "Mithologie et Morale 
Iroquoises," the Franklin legend had begun to develop, but it did 
not take permanent form until the arrival of Franklin in France 
as American commissioner and the concomitant publication of 
Qu&ant's translation of his Way to Wealth under the title of 
La Science du Bonhomme Richard. The Way to Wealth is a 
compilation of proverbs from an almanac that Franklin had 
edited and published in Pennsylvania from 1733 until 1758. To 
make his almanac more entertaining than those of his competi- 
tors, Franklin had invented a harassed husband, Richard Saunders, 
and his determined spouse, Bridget. In the preface to the almanac 
for nearly every year in which it appeared, Saunders or his wife 
wrote about each other or their competitors in the vein of 
Isaac Bickerstaff, the imaginary astrologer of Jonathan Swift and 
Notes to this chapter begin on page 241. 


Richard Steele. In addition to prefatory essays, poetry, and do- 
mestic hints, the pages of the almanac were filled with a variety 
of proverbs. The annual production bore the title Poor Richard's 
Almanac ^ but in French, because of the paradox inherent in a 
literal translation, the name of Franklin's rural philosopher was 
usually converted to Bonhomme Richard. 

In the summer of 1757 while on a packet en route to England, 
Franklin looked over his almanacs for the preceding two decades, 
extracted the best proverbs concerning thrift and industry, and 
combined them in an ingenious narrative. This narrative he pub- 
lished as the Preface to the Almanac for 1758 and gave it the title 
The Way to Wealth. The scene is a country fair in Pennsylvania, 
where Poor Richard, passing by on horseback, pauses to hear a 
hoary patriarch, named Father Abraham, haranguing the crowd 
on taxes and hard times. The best weapons to combat both, main- 
tains the old man, are labor and economy; his immediate counsel 
to his auditors is to abandon the folly of the fair. Nearly each one 
of his sentences contains a proverb or two most of them drawn 
from previous almanacs and introduced with some variant of the 
phrase, "As Poor Richard says." The old gentleman concludes 
his discourse, the people solemnly approve, and immediately 
proceed to act upon the contrary doctrine. The only one to be 
visibly influenced is Richard Saunders himself, whose vanity has 
been touched by hearing his name mentioned throughout, and 
who goes away without buying the coat he had attended the fair 
to acquire. 

During his middle age Franklin was fond of amusing himself 
by constructing magic squares and circles numbers arranged in 
various patterns to produce identical sums when added in various 
directions. His Way to Wealth is essentially a tour de force of the 
same nature the construction into a continued narrative of a 
series of proverbs on a single theme taken from a larger collection 
of heterogeneous sayings. 

The first French translation of The Way to Wealth appeared 
in 1773 as part of Dubourg's edition of the (Euvres de M. Frank- 
lin, 1773. 1 It created almost no comment. A second translation 
by Antoine Francois Qutant in 1777 immediately gained thou- 
sands of readers. 2 Some preliminary facts concerning the relations 
between Franklin's own visits to France and the translations of 


his works will help to explain why the early translation of The 
Way to Wealth was given almost no attention, whereas another 
version only three years later became the most widely read Amer- 
ican work in France. 

Although some authorities attribute the two volumes of 
Franklin's CEuvres to Jean Baptiste Lesqui (or LeCuy), a mem- 
ber of the religious order of the Pr&nontres, the correspondence 
between Franklin and Dubourg proves without a doubt that they 
are entirely the work of the latter. Both Lesqui and Jean Baptiste 
Le Roy had begun translating some of Franklin's scientific works 
in 1772, perhaps at Dubourg's instigation, but both gave up the 
task almost at its commencement, leaving it entirely in Dubourg's 
hands. 8 Dubourg's translation is based on the fourth edition of 
Franklin's Experiments and Observations in Electricity made at 
Philadelphia in America (London, 1769), but Dubourg included 
a mass of materials not found in this edition. His work, therefore, 
represented the most complete collection of Franklin writings 
printed to that time. The first volume contains documents con- 
cerning Franklin's electrical experiments; the second volume, 
material on economic, political and miscellaneous subjects. Of 
the miscellaneous pieces, The Way to Wealth and an essay on 
demography, Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind, 
were the most influential. 

The latter essay was the only one to receive critical attention 
in the French press and the only one which stimulated Dubourg 
to extensive editorial comment. To his translation Dubourg added 
a number of explanatory notes and a supplementary essay of his 
own, hoping by them to persuade Franklin to write further on 
the subject. Dubourg felt that Franklin's comments on Pennsyl- 
vania should be extended to generalizations on the population 
of the entire world; he accordingly presented ten demographic 
principles of his own, which portray a broader international and 
humanitarian vision than that of Franklin. Dissenting from 
Franklin's observation that a nation is strengthened doubly by 
"increasing its own people, and diminishing its neighbours," 
Dubourg asserts that the advantages drawn from the misfortune 
of one's neighbors are often more imaginary than real, that the 
principles of justice and the sources of felicity are the same both 
for nations and for individuals. Although presuming to expand 


the scope of Franklin's observations, Dubourg agreed with their 
general principles. Mirabeau, however, who saw Franklin's essay 
before its appearance in print, wrote on a manuscript translation 
in his possession in 1771, "Observations on population by Mr. 
Franklin given by him to me before he had any notion of eco- 
nomics, and it is here apparent." * 

Dubourg added no original comments to his translation of 
The Way to Wealth, but it is apparent from his later imitation 
of its proverbial wisdom that he considered the work to be even 
more significant than the Observations on population. Dubourg's 
title is literal and comprehensive: "Le Moyen de s'enricher, 
Enseign clairement dans la Preface d'un vieil Almanach de 
Pensylvanie, intitul: Le Pauvre Henri Son Aise." This pioneer 
translation seems to have been virtually ignored by the French 
public although extracts appeared in the Journal Encyclopedique 
(June 1773) as part of an appraisal of the (Euvres. 5 It enjoyed no 
separate editions, inspired no commentaries or eulogies except 
Dubourg's own imitation of Franklin's almanac, Calendrier de 
Philadelphie, ou Constitutions de Sancho-Panga et du Bon- 
Homme Richard, en Pensylvanie, 1777. In this same year, 1777, 
appeared the new translation of The Way to Wealth by Qu6tant, 
La Science du Bonhomme Richard, ou Moyen Facile de payer 
les impots, a translation that went through four editions in two 
years and at least five others before the end of the century. It 
was widely quoted in periodicals and extravagantly praised. In 
this dress, La Science du Bonhomme Richard came to be almost 
universally considered a work of sublime morality, and its sen- 
tentious maxims were compared to those of Bacon and La 

Let us review the chronological record. The Way to Wealth 
appeared originally in Philadelphia in 1758, was widely reprinted 
in America and England, but remained unheard of in France 
until 1773 when it appeared as part of Franklin's complete works. 
The editor, Dubourg, and one or two journalists recognized that 
it had literary merits beyond Franklin's other pieces, but it 
nevertheless fell into virtual neglect. Then a brief four years 
later a new translation brought the work widespread attention 
and effusive praise. The conclusions are inevitable. Either the 
two translations brought about this state of affairs the deficien- 


cies of one and the excellencies of the other or other completely 
unrelated circumstances were responsible. 

A comparison will show almost at a glance that the two trans- 
lations vary hardly at all in literary merit. Dubourg's is more 
literal and slightly more expansive than that of Qutant and in 
general preserves the constructions of the original, preferring 
to give an exact rendering of the English idiom than to convert 
to the French equivalent. Qu&ant, however, maintains a collo- 
quial French style, selecting the language which Franklin would 
have used had he been a rural philosopher speaking to the aver- 
age Frenchman of his time. These characteristics may be seen in 
the rendering of the English proverb, "God helps those who help 
themselves," which Franklin probably took from James Howell's 
Lexicon Tetraglotton, 1660. Dubourg gives the completely literal 
translation "Dieu aide ceux qui s'aident eux-memes"; whereas 
Qu^tant gives the French idiomatic equivalent, "Aide-toi, je 
t'aiderai," almost as it appears in La Fontaine's "Le Chartier 
Embourb6" ("Aide-toi, le Ciel t'aidera"). 

An anecdote concerning this proverb has been recorded by 
Sainte-Beuve and associated with Franklin. Two prominent Jan- 
senists imprisoned in the Bastille were visited by the governor, 
who was in a very good humor. Finding them in a tranquil 
frame of mind, he remarked upon it, "Doesn't God say in his 
Gospel, 'God helps those who help themselves?" The two pris- 
oners looked at each other and smiled at the citation of the new 
gospel. But we may well smile in turn at their astonishment, 
Sainte-Beuve added, so much has our Christianity been human- 
ized since and translated a la Franklin. 6 

The event which brought The Way to Wealth to instant popu- 
larity in France was Franklin's arrival, December 21, 1776. 
Franklin's appearance and personality created an immediate sen- 
sation, not only among the scientists and philosophers who had 
known and admired him previously, but among the diplomats 
on one side and the common people on the other. Les Memoires 
secrets reported (February 4, 1777) that he had been much wined, 
dined, and applauded by the savants. The details of his appear- 
ances at court and in public we may read in newspapers, personal 
letters, and private memoirs; all agreed on Franklin's paternal 
and benevolent demeanor. The Memoires secrets noted his "hand- 


some physiognomy, partial baldness, and a fur cap which he wore 
constantly on his head." So popular did Franklin become that his 
likeness appeared on every hand. His portrait was offered for sale 
in medallions of various sizes, "some to be set in the lids of 
snuffboxes and some so small as to be worn in rings; and," he 
wrote to his daughter, "the numbers sold are incredible. These, 
with the pictures, busts, and prints (of which copies upon copies 
are spread everywhere), have made your father's face as well 
known as that of the moon, so that he durst not do anything that 
would oblige him to run away, as his phiz would discover him 
wherever he should venture to show it." 7 Louis XVI, not exactly 
pleased with the homage paid to this hero of democracy but not 
prepared openly to discountenance it, paid his respects to the 
mode by presenting to the Comtesse Diane de Polignac a hand- 
some chamber pot with Franklin's physiognomy on the inner 
side of its base. 8 

The consequent success of La Science du Bonhomme Richard 
came about not only because Franklin was in the public eye, but 
also because his own personality came to be associated with that 
of Bonhomme Richard. No better evidence of this can be given 
than the following description of Franklin by Hilliard d'Auber- 
teuil, a fellow member with Franklin of the Masonic lodge of 
the Nine Sisters. 

Everything in him announced the simplicity and the innocence of 
primitive morals. . . . Franklin had lain aside the wig which for- 
merly in England hid the nudity of his forehead and the useless 
adornment which would have left him at the level of the other 
English. He showed to the astonished multitude a head worthy of 
the brush of Guide [a painter of old men] on an erect and vigorous 
body clad in the simplest of garments. His eyes were shadowed by 
large glasses and in his hand he carried a white cane. He spoke 
little. He knew how to be impolite without being rude, and his 
pride seemed to be that of nature. Such a person was made to 
excite the curiosity of Paris. The people clustered around as he 
passed and asked, "Who is this old peasant who has such a noble 
air?" 9 

In appearance Franklin seemed to be a village philosopher; those 
who knew him, therefore, considered his Bonhomme Richard as 
village philosophy. 

Franklin himself, however, never had such a view of his work. 


To him it was a collection of proverbial wisdom, some of which 
he believed and had practiced, some of which he considered to 
be of limited application. There is little doubt that he included 
much of it to sell almanacs and that he gave little or no thought 
to either its practical value or moral tone. We have already 
pointed out that The Way to Wealth was drawn from the pages 
of Poor Richard's Almanac of previous years, that it was a careful 
selection of those passages inculcating thrift and industry. The 
complete Poor Richard does more than advocate worldly pru- 
dence; indeed, much of its philosophy is contradictory. In gen- 
eral, the sayings are bawdy and practical in the early years; para- 
doxically, moral and cynical in the later. Several of them were 
derived ultimately from La Rochefoucauld. 

The French journalists who praised Bonhomme Richard for 
his sublime morality would have been surprised to learn that he 
had formerly advised his Philadelphia townsmen: 

Love your Neighbour; yet don't pull down your Hedge. 1754 
There's none deceived but he that trusts. 1736 
Onions can make ev'n heirs and widows weep. 1734 

Franklin did not exactly view life as a dog-fight, but he portrayed 
many unconventional aspects of life that were completely ignored 
in The Way to Wealth. His attitude toward sex, for example, is 
more cynical than sublime. 

You cannot pluck roses without fear of thorns 

Nor enjoy a fair wife without danger of horns. 1734 

Neither a fortress nor a maidenhead will hold out long after they 
begin to parley. 1734 

Indeed the prudential worldliness of The Way to Wealth is in 
general controverted by the following maxim from Poor Richard. 

Avarice and happiness never saw each other, how then should they 
become acquainted. 1734 

Not to speak of the French couplet which Franklin used in 1742, 

Fiente de chien & marc d'argent, 
Seront tout un au jour du jugement. 

(Dog's dung and silver marks 

Are all one at the day of judgment.) 


Even in The Way to Wealth itself Franklin gently satirizes his 
prudential advice and his method of inculcating it: "I own that 
to encourage the practice of remembering and repeating those 
wise sentences, I have sometimes quoted myself with great 
gravity." Franklin's French contemporaries, however, completely 
missed this suggestion of irony and were completely unaware that 
many of the proverbs in the complete Poor Richard's Almanac 
epitomized worldly or bawdy views of life. 

Despite the many editions and periodical reprints of Qutant's 
version, other translations followed. In Lausanne, The Way to 
Wealth appeared under the title Manuel de Philosophie Pratique, 
Pour seruir de suite a la Science du Bonhomme Richard (1795) 
as the nucleus of a collection of little-known English moral frag- 
ments. 10 Notably this is the only translation in which Poor 
Richard is literally translated in the text as "pauvre Richard," 
although the title of the piece reads, "Le secret du bon homme 
Richard pour faire une bonne maison." The translated narrative 
is brisk and colloquial, but somewhat condensed, the anonymous 
translator going even further than Qutant in converting Frank- 
lin's proverbs to idiomatic French equivalents. 

A fourth translation by J. Castra appeared in his edition of 
Franklin's autobiography in 17Q8. 11 Referring to Quetant's prior 
version, he remarked that the work was so interesting that he 
felt obliged to give a fresh translation. He provided also a new 
title, "Le Chemin de la Fortune, ou La Science du bonhomme 
Richard." A fifth separate translation appeared in Paris in 1817 
with the title Extrait de la Science du Bonhomme Richard* 2 a 
highly compressed version that omits the entire narrative frame- 
work and all reference to Father Abraham, but is otherwise lit- 
eral. This translator is unknown. 

Most French critics admired Bonhomme Richard for its sim- 
plicity, its appeal to the common man, and its sublime morality. 
Brissot, who had previously met Franklin in Pennsylvania and 
had praised him extensively in an account of his voyages, devoted 
an article in his periodical Le Patriote Francois to Poor Richard y 
portraying it as an indirect cause of the French Revolution. 13 
Repeating the commonplace that the Revolution was not the 
fruit of an insurrection but the work of fifty years of enlighten- 
ment, he observed that as the enlightenment had first established 


liberty it was the subsequent function of enlightenment to main- 
tain it; that the true friends, the true defenders of the Revolution 
are those who spread instruction among the people. As Franklin 
had established liberty in America, Penn had established the 
republic. Franklin in particular influenced his age through his 
simple, naive, and familiar style, which was as useful to the con- 
mon people as it was agreeable to those of literary culture. The 
Way to Wealth, which Brissot describes as proverbial exhortation, 
he concludes is a masterpiece of popular literature. In a later 
address at the Jacobin's Club, Brissot repeated his political inter- 
pretation: "The patriot par excellence is a philosopher. Behold 
how Poor Richard and Franklin were always friends of the 
people." " 

An even more enthusiastic appraisal was given by the abb 
Fauchet in his Eloge Civique of Franklin. Apparently referring 
to Dubourg's translation, he stated that "Les Proverbes du 
Vieux Henri, la Science du Bonhomme Richard are in the hands 
of the learned and the ignorant: it is the most sublime practical 
morality presented for the common man; it is for all humanity 
the catechism of happiness." 15 

Even the ladies, who shared in many of Franklin's activities 
in Paris, joined in acclaiming Bonhomme Richard. While Frank- 
lin was still in residence, a young married lady distributed copies 
of the work to a number of her friends; one of these, a romantic 
admirer, wrote some verses on the subject that were published 
in the Journal de Paris (March 14, ^81). On the one hand, he 
regretted that a young and pretty maiden should show in her 
demeanor nothing but good sense, for at the age of polite ac- 
complishments too much reason leads to misanthropy. On the 
other hand, he applauded her resolution since she gave endless 
pleasure by preaching in Poor Richard's style; even those whom 
she condemned by her principles involuntarily admired her moral 

Grimm in his Correspondance litteraire was almost the only 
critic to say anything adverse about Bonhomme Richard (although 
his general opinion is favorable). Impressed chiefly by the eco- 
nomic features of the work, he pointed out its grand principle 
that personal extravagance may be more onerous than public 
taxes. "This moral is developed in a series of apophthegms full 


of reason, energy, and clarity," Grimm admitted, but at the same 
time he objected to "the eternal repetition of the phrase as Poor 
Richard says, which makes reading a little tiresome." He con- 
cluded, nevertheless, that he knew of no other book more worthy 
of universal circulation than this one of Dr. Franklin. 16 

Other critics praised the economic features of the work. Jean 
Baptiste Say, famous economist during the period of the Direc- 
tory and authority on public education, specifically asserted in 
reference to Franklin that practical economics and high morality 
are mutually dependent. In a work of Utopian fiction, Olbie, ou 
essai sur les moyens d'ameliorer les moeurs d'une nation, 1791, 
he describes the erecting of temples celebrating the principal 
virtues, 17 with wall inscriptions of moral precepts chosen from 
among the most useful and practical that literature has to offer, 
including maxims of political economy, since they are conducive 
to morality. By this means, farmers, traders, and manufacturers 
who travel to other communities may read these maxims and may 
be apprised of their own true interests. Among examples of 
proverbs notable for their simple forcefulness and ease of re- 
tention, Say gives one each from La Fontaine and Bacon and six 
from Franklin. 

Say collaborated with du Pont de Nemours in 1794 in pub- 
lishing a volume of Franklin material, including the Qu&ant 
translation of The Way to Wealth The highly-significant review 
of this volume in La Decade Philosophique, the organ of du Pont 
de Nemours and fellow minds, summarizes the importance of 
Bonhomme Richard to Franklin's vogue in France: 19 "It is in 
this work that are found these numerous adages, these moral 
axioms that have made a part of the reputation of Franklin. La 
Science du Bonhomme Richard is a masterpiece of good sense, 
of concision, of simplicity one could almost add, of finesse, if 
a word so decried could be applied to the most sublime, the 
most useful notions of political and private economy." After a 
cursory summary of Franklin's work, the reviewer adds, "Noth- 
ing which concerned the interests of humanity was below him. 
One senses how he had been obliged to make this light frame- 
work interesting by the manner in which he has carried it out. 
At every moment one perceives his profound knowledge of the 
qualities and eccentricities of men. He had seen much; he had 


experienced much; and he knew how to observe. There are few 
works which comprise so many things in such a small volume. 
At every instant one encounters one of these maxims which as- 
tonish by their justness, their concision, their profundity." 
Finally, the reviewer praises the literary skill that enabled Frank- 
lin to appeal to all classes of readers. "At the same time that he 
develops the truths that he gives you with such skill, he brings 
them within the comprehension of every reader. That which an 
unpracticed mind does not grasp under one form, it grasps under 
another. One may say of Franklin as has been said of La Fontaine 
from another point of view: his writings are those of all ages, 
of all minds, of all conditions." 

Shortly after the publication of this volume containing Bon- 
homme Richard, Say wrote to the Executive Commission of Pub- 
lic Instruction offering to provide copies of the volume at a 
negligible price to be used as an elementary textbook in the 
public schools. Reporting on the offer, the Commission remarked, 
"To have named this work is to have eulogized it." 20 Because 
of the merit of the book, its nominal price, and the dearth of 
elementary books in all sections of the republic, the Commission 
recommended that copies be obtained and distributed in the 
various departments. 

Du Pont de Nemours, perhaps with this transaction still in his 
mind, prescribed The Way to Wealth as a textbook for the Amer- 
ican educational system. In a discussion of national education 
in the United States, written while du Pont was in New York, 
he advocated The Way to Wealth as the only literary work in 
existence suited to the elementary grades; 21 an adequate ABC, 
he felt, was the most difficult type of textbook to prepare. 

I know only a single book which has the grace, the lightness, the 
deep sense, the art of dissimulating art, which this genre of work 
requires. It is by Franklin. It is la Science du Bonhomme Richard. It 
has been imitated in France by the honest Mathon de la Cour in 
le Testament de Fortune Ricard; but what a great difference in 
talent and how little application it has to childhood. The Testa- 
ment has as its aim merely to demonstrate the value of thrift in 
spending and the accumulating of interest from capital and then 
to show the useful projects a government with several millionaires 
may undertake. 


Franklin himself knew le Testament de Fortune Ricard and 
wrote to Mathon de la Cour (July 9, 1785) that he had read it 
with pleasure and conceived a high opinion of its author; in- 
deed, it had such a strong influence upon him that he later at- 
tributed to it the impulse which led him to provide in his will 
for a trust fund of 2000 sterling for the cities of Boston and 
Philadelphia to be used in aiding "young beginners in busi- 
ness." 22 When le Testament de Fortune Ricard first appeared 
in France, it was taken to be the work of Franklin. 23 

Mathon de la Cour was the first of a series of French economists 
and sociologists, including Jean Baptiste Say and Frd&ric Bastiat, 
who were strongly influenced by Poor Richard. Bastiat wrote to 
one of his friends at the age of 26, exulting over the discovery 
of a volume of Franklin's moral and political miscellanies, "I am 
so enthused over it that I intend to follow the same method to 
become as good and as happy as he." 24 Bastiat's biographer, de- 
scribing him as "le Bonhomme Richard de la science conomique 
fran^aise," felt sure that he adopted from Franklin his familiar 
and simple tone and his attitude of popular good nature when 
he wished to instruct the masses. 25 

The pedagogical value of Bonhomme Richard was similarly 
stressed by the* translator of the Lausanne, 1795, edition, who 
remarked that literature offers for children a large number of 
works presenting the most noble sentiments, the greatest sim- 
plicity, and the best manner of instruction, but that few works 
are available that are designed for the period of early youth, that 
highly critical age when the young man begins to sense his im- 
portance, to pride himself on the title of man, and to scorn 
everything that recalls the child. At this period in life, the young 
man needs reading material devoted exclusively to his needs, to 
satisfy his zest for noble thoughts and philosophic systems. The 
editor, in reference to the pieces that he had selected with Bon- 
homme Richard as their nucleus, concluded that "morality is 
above all sophisms and essentially related to the maintenance of 
public felicity because of its direct influence on the happiness 
of individuals." 

Condorcet, finding Bonhomme Richard suitable for informed 
as well as burgeoning minds, admired Franklin for concealing 
his intellectual superiority in seeming to descend to the common 


level. 26 Franklin at the outset of his career "did not want any 
class of citizen to remain without instruction/' Condorcet ob- 
served in his famous eulogy; he did not wish to see 

any one condemned to receive only false ideas by books designed 
to flatter his credulousness or nourish his prejudices. A common 
printer [Franklin] did for America what the wisest governments 
have had the arrogance to neglect or the weakness to fear. He later 
gathered all of these lessons in the work so famous under the title 
of Bonhomme Richard, a unique work in which one cannot help 
recognizing the superior man without it being possible to cite a 
single passage where he allows his superiority to be perceived. Noth- 
ing in the thoughts nor in the style is above the least developed 
intelligence, but the philosophic mind easily discovers noble aims 
and profound intentions. The expression is always natural, often 
indeed commonplace, and all the wit is in the choice of ideas. In 
order that his lessons might be most useful he did not reveal to 
his readers that a philosopher of the town had condescended to 
instruct them and he hid himself under the name of Poor Richard, 
pretending to be ignorant and humble like them. 

In the following year, Joseph Antoine Cerutti, famous Revo- 
lutionary figure, himself an exponent of adult education, pub- 
lished in his La Feuille Villageoise a similar interpretation of 
Franklin's career. 27 The human race owes less to Franklin's 
politics and his lightning rods, he remarked, than his com- 
patriots owe to his pamphlets. "Twenty years before he estab- 
lished the liberty of the American people, he cultivated their 
reason." Cerutti's periodical was designed especially to enlighten 
the provinces concerning the progress of the Revolution. Al- 
though apparently without any specific knowledge concerning 
Franklin's extended editorial supervision of his newspaper The 
Pennsylvania Gazette, Cerutti felt that his own enterprise was 
similar to Franklin's. "He was a printer; he wanted to be a jour- 
nalist; no doubt he produced Feuilles villageoises (Village News- 
papers)/' In a subsequent article on Poor Richard, Cerutti ex- 
plained that Franklin 

having observed how the people he wished to liberate still lacked 
enlightenment, conceived the plan of publishing a weekly paper 
where morality was presented in varied and intriguing forms, and 
where political principles were taught in a clear and simple lan- 
guage. It was by this essentially simple proceeding that he succeeded 
in rectifying the common ideas and in creating in some measure for 


the multitude a new spirit capable equally of braving perils and 
of avoiding excesses. His paper had an enormous success; it fell into 
the hands of the ignorant and the intelligentsia; some of the ar- 
ticles it contained, worthy of Voltaire and of Montesquieu, have 
circulated throughout the entire world. Among them is La Science 
du Bonhomme Richard, a science made for our villagers. 28 

This account contains much rapture, little accuracy. Cerutti 
makes no distinction between Franklin's newspaper, The Penn- 
sylvania Gazette, and Poor Richard's Almanac. Poor Richard had 
absolutely no connection with the Gazette, and the famous po- 
litical tracts and moral pieces that contributed to Franklin's vogue 
in Paris were all written subsequently to his period as newspaper 
editor. While Cerutti gives a fair statement of Franklin's pur- 
poses in the Gazette, he is completely mistaken about his achieve- 
ments, for although Franklin wrote a number of pieces of genuine 
literary merit for the Gazette, they were not at the time widely 

Cerutti by nature cared more for embellishment than for ac- 
curacy. This characteristic influenced even the extracts from 
Poor Richard he selected from the Qu&ant translation as printed 
in the Buisson edition of Franklin's Memoirs; he touched up the 
style, enlivened the narrative to suit his own fancy, but paid no 
attention to literal meaning. Thus, his is not a new translation, 
but an embellishment of Qu^tant's. The nature of Cerutti's treat- 
ment is well revealed in the conclusion of the piece, to which 
Cerutti gave a novel twist completely contrary to Franklin's end- 
ing. According to Cerutti, 

As the old preacher finished his harangue, the people listened with 
mouths agape and smiling. They clapped their hands when he fin- 
ished speaking. Indeed they did even better; taking advantage of 
his advice, some ran to pay their debts, others went to take up 
their work, and still others remained for the sale, but bought only 
necessary articles; and all paid their taxes through the savings o 
virtue and the reform of vice. American national prosperity profited 
through the science and the proverbs of Bonhomme Richard. Since 
this famous discourse, no one in America pronounces a moral sen- 
tence, a political maxim, an aphorism of jurisprudence, a historical 
apophthegm, a popular proverb, a popular adage, or any kind of 
saying, without adding "as Poor Richard says." 

In this embellishment, Cerutti is right about little except the 
colloquial style of Poor Richard. In America, it was the style 


rather than the sense of Franklin's proverbs that made Poor 
Richard a best-seller; intellectually Franklin's proverbs were so 
diverse and contradictory that they could not possibly have had 
a consistent effect. In France, Bonhomme Richard became so 
closely associated with brisk, colloquial style that a periodical 
came out in 1790 with the title Le Bonhomme Richard aux 
Bonnes-Gens. Anti-revolutionary propaganda, it ran to only two 
issues, but in imitating the homespun style of Poor Richard, it 
attempted to reconcile workers, servants, and the unemployed 
with the status quo and to forfend further disturbances. During 
Year III of the revolutionary epoch appeared another periodical 
under the title of Journal du Bonhomme Richard, a political 
daily, presenting opinions corresponding to those of Bonneville 
and Fauchet. The author, Antoine F. Lemaire, introduced Bon- 
homme Richard as a man with normal human characteristics and 
from time to time allowed him to present his moral thoughts. 29 

Other evidence shows that Bonhomme Richard and his proverbs 
actually entered into common parlance. In a periodical dedicated 
entirely to the theater, for example, an author began a letter in 
the year after the Quetant translation with the phrase, "Bon- 
homme Richard is indeed right in saying," and ended the same 
letter with another proverb and the words, "as Bonhomme 
Richard also says." so 

Amid all the notice created by Bonhomme Richard, however, 
the most extraordinary manifestation of interest was that of a 
society of deists, who included it in a compilation of works of 
religious and moral contemplation. Franklin, who wrote at least 
one ritual for his own private devotions and collaborated in the 
preparing of another for public use, would probably have been 
amazed to see his utilitarian proverbs regarded as a: religious 
and moral system. Yet a precis of The Way to Wealth 1 appeared 
under the title of "Pens6es Morales de Franklin" in the Annee 
Religieuse des Theophilantropes, on Adorateurs de Dieu et Amis 
des Hommes** publishe4 by the Theophilantropes, a moral and 
philanthropic society that held public services celebrating its three 
major doctrines, the existence of God, the existence of the soul, 
and the hope of a future life. In the Annee Religieuse, Bonhomme 
Richard appeared as a parallel to the moral thoughts of Penn, 
La Bruyere, F<nelon, Young, Voltaire, and Rousseau. The text, 


based on Quetant but eliminating all narrative elements, pre- 
sents Franklin's didactic utilitarianism in unrelieved simplicity. 
The editors apparently received inspiration or moral strength 
from the stark homily, spaced in the fashion of prayer books or 

. . . Par exemple, notre paresse nous prend deux fois autant que 
le gouvernement; 
Notre orgueil, trois fois; 
Et notre imprudence, quatre fois autant encore. 

It may be worth noting that the section which the Theophilan- 
thropists changed most radically from the Quetant version is the 
only one in which Franklin departs from the theme of prudential 
economy to suggest the higher theme of social benevolence. 
Franklin had stated that the good things of prosperity were of 
little value without the blessings of heaven, and he exhorted his 
readers to petition these for themselves and to care for their 
neighbors who lacked material and spiritual comfort, giving as 
an example the transition of Job from poverty to happiness. 

N'allez pas cependant vous confier uniquement & votre Industrie, 
i votre vigilance & votre Economic. Ce sont d'excellentes choses 
la verite, mais elles vous seront tout-a-fait inutiles, si vous n'avez, 
avant tout, les benedictions du Ciel. Demandez done humblement 
ces benedictions; ne soyez point insensibles aux besoms de ceux 
qui elles sont refusees; mais donnez-leur des consolations & des 
secours. Souvenez-vous que Job fut pauvre, & qu'ensuite il redevint 

The Theophilanthropists, perhaps because of their deistical no- 
tions, deleted the references to prayer and to Job. 

N'allez pas cependant vous confier uniquement votre Industrie, 
k votre vigilance et k votre economic. Ce sont d'excellentes choses, 
k la verite; mais il faut encore votre bonheur les benedictions du 
Ciel. Rendez-vous en dignes, par la pratique de toutes les vertus; 
ne soyez pas insensibles aux besoins de vos freres, mais donnez-leur 
des consolations et des secours. 

If taken seriously, The Way to Wealth must be condemned 
as a handbook of bourgeois respectability. (That Franklin himself 
did not take it seriously, the narrative elements with which he 
adorned it are ample proof.) S2 The Theophilanthropists and other 
French contemporaries who read concepts of sublime morality 


into the work must have been touched by the personality of 
Franklin and so attributed to his work the virtues they perceived 
in his character. They seem to have considered the work a com- 
panion piece to Franklin's Liturgy on the Universal Principles 
of Religion and Morality, 1776, written in collaboration with 
David Williams, which the Theophilanthropists adopted almost 
in its entirety in 1797. 

This respect for Franklin bordering upon adulation may be 
perceived also in the previously-mentioned imitation of Poor 
Richard's Almanac entitled Calendrier de Philadelphie, on Con- 
stitutions de Sancho Panga et du Bon-Homme Richard, en Pen- 
sylvanie, 1777. This work is a calendar in the sense that the book 
is divided into twelve major sections, one for each month, and 
the subsections correspond to the days of the month. The con- 
tents, however, comprising a maxim or subject of meditation for 
each day, are not primarily proverbs and wise sayings, like Frank- 
lin's, but moral and philosophical pensees, in structure more like 
Pascal's, though in the liberal and deistical principles they set 
forth, almost antithetical to Pascal's. This work has been attrib- 
uted to Dr. Barbeu Dubourg, and there is good reason for be- 
lieving that it is his in part; many of the maxims are taken from 
the Petit code de la raison humaine, a deistical work definitely 
known to be Dubourg's. I am convinced, however, that Dubourg 
had absolutely nothing to do with a long introductory narrative 
of twenty-five pages in which Sancho Pan^a and Bonhomme 
Richard converse with each other and with two original char- 
acters, Sir Thomas and Mistress Rachel. My reason for this con- 
clusion is that the introductory narrative incorporates the Qu&ant 
translation of The Way to Wealth almost verbatim, whereas the 
quotations from Franklin in the almanac section are based on the 
Dubourg translation. It is hard to imagine that Dubourg would 
use his own translation as the source of quotations in the text of 
the work and at the same time use a rival translation in its en- 
tirety in an introduction. The probable explanation is that Du- 
bourg himself compiled the almanac section and that the editor 
or printer added the introduction in order to swell the contents 
of the work and make it more readily salable. 33 But whatever 
the reason for the combination, the book is a rarity in literature. 
I know of no other original production based upon and includ- 


ing quotations from two entirely different translations of a work 
that it imitates. 

The evidence that the introduction and the body of the Galen- 
drier are by different hands explains an obvious esthetic and in- 
tellectual incompatibility between the two sections. The printer 
may have considered the introduction a scintillating and original 
jeu d'esprit, but the situation is clumsy and artificial and the 
humor forced. It can be justified merely on the grounds that 
through it Sancho is enabled to harangue a multitude with a 
translation of The Way to Wealth, but even the introducing of 
Franklin's proverbs is of doubtful value. Franklin's melange of 
practical morality does not blend very well with Dubourg's 
broader and more philosophical maxims in the body of the work. 

The introduction explains how it comes to pass that Sancho 
Pan$a figures as a lawmaker in Pennsylvania. Everyone, the au- 
thor asserts, is acquainted with his brilliant career as governor 
of the island of Barataria, and with his celebrated judicial skill 
worthy to be ranked with Solomon's. Like Solomon, he possessed 
a mind stored with proverbs, particularly those illustrating and 
glorifying prudence. After the death of his master Don Quixote, 
Sancho, having had too much taste for knight errantry to remain 
content with the mediocrity of life in his simple village with its 
curate and barber, revisited the cavern of Montesinos to renew 
his acquaintance with the enchanter Parasaragaramus. In a 
proverb-crammed speech, Sancho complains of his ennui and 
implores the enchanter for surcease. The latter replies that all 
will be well; Sancho has followed destiny in coming to the magic 
cavern. He is to remain there during the passage of the centuries 
until awakened to become the legislator for a populous nation, 
where his eminent good sense and his storehouse of proverbs will 
then make his regime as successful as the one he had enjoyed on 
the island of Barataria. His new subjects are to be primitive 
Christians, who will never swear, lie, nor make war. The time 
will come when they must be defended against a race of mis- 
creants, who, under the pretext that these primitive moralists 
have descended from their kinsmen, will seek to ravish their 
liberties and seize half of their property. These Christians are 
saints, but saints not canonized by virtue of services rendered to 
the popes. Like Socrates, Titus, Trajan, Epictetus, Aristides, and 


Marcus Aurelius, they have much greater virtues than all the 
saints of the Golden Legend. 

After his forecasted sleep of centuries, Sancho reawakens in 
Philadelphia in the company of Poor Richard, the almanac- 
maker. As the two stroll through the city, the latter explains the 
measures by which the English are seeking to confiscate more 
than half of the Philadelphia income by taxing tea and requir- 
ing that stamps be affixed to all documents. When he asks Sancho 
to use his legislative skill and knowledge of proverbs in behalf 
of his townsmen, Sancho recommends first of all that everything 
that serves only for ornamentation must be suppressed, or at least 
be permitted only to thieves and courtesans. Happening upon an 
auction at which nothing but ornaments is offered for sale, Sancho 
finds confirmation of his fear that love of luxury is the source 
of the nation's evils. He harangues the throng, therefore, on the 
folly of luxury, repeating the entire Qu^tant translation of The 
Way to Wealth. At the conclusion of this melange of proverbs, 
everyone in the audience applauds, praises the good sense and 
reason of the speech, and congratulates the speaker. Just as Poor 
Richard begins to weep with joy at the thought of his dear towns- 
men renouncing their vanities and occupying themselves hence- 
forth with useful pursuits, the auctioneer announces the begin- 
ning of the sale, and all the beholders rush madly to buy. Sancho 
and Richard retreat in sorrow to Richard's house, where they 
console themselves with food and drink and speculate on the 
means of converting their errant fellow citizens to reason. Richard 
invites two of his friends, Mistress Rachel and Sir Thomas, to 
join the consultation, in which, discarding sumptuary laws as 
ineffectual, the four decide that they should circulate "un petit 
Cours abrg de morale simple fe insinuante, divise en l^ons. 
courtes & faciles a retenir, qu'on put regarder comme un livret 
de tous les jours & de toutes les heures." They will publish their 
defense of reason in the form of an almanac, but an almanac of 
universal, not provincial, utility, one without holidays and phases 
of the moon and serviceable in any year. 

This episode of Sancho and Richard is not only clumsy, but 
inconsistent. The tergiversation of Sancho's audience at the con- 
clusion of the tale may have seemed an amusing touch, but it 
obviously nullifies everything the enchanter Parasaragaramus 


had previously said concerning the primitive morality of the 
Quakers. The trouble comes from mixing two themes. Franklin 
had suggested a boycott of all British goods as a means of de- 
feating the Stamp Acts, and the beginning of the tale seems to 
be designed to prepare the reader to interpret Sancho's harangue 
as an attack on importations only. The Way to Wealth was writ- 
ten long before the Stamp Acts, however, and it denounces do- 
mestic luxury as well as imported; hence, it does not really serve 
as a rejoinder to the Stamp Acts. Also, as a reviewer in the Cour- 
rier de I' Europe points out, it is out of keeping with the sober 
moral tone of the work to introduce Sancho Panga, who inevi- 
tably suggests ideas of pleasantry and ridicule. 34 

The almanac itself, however, not the introduction, is the real 
work of art. Although it is Dubourg's most original and imagina- 
tive work, he is forced by the rigid censorship to keep up the 
fiction that it is a translation. In the preface he expresses fear 
that his translation may not be exact or agreeable, and that the 
sentiments of a pretended religious reformer may not be relished 
in a monarchical and Catholic state. He asserts in defense that 
wise and judicious readers of the work have assured him that it 
contains no sophisms or sarcasms against essential doctrines of 
religion and that it demonstrates, moreover, that a simple mon- 
archy is the only form of government which may render a great 
nation happy and flourishing. 

True enough, the almanac does not praise democracy at the 
expense of monarchy, for Dubourg sincerely believed that mon- 
archy was the best form of government for France. Despite his 
pretended concern for Catholicism, however, the work can be 
called nothing less than anti-Catholic. Dubourg devotes more 
space to religion than to any other three subjects, and of this 
space, about half is devoted to deistical theories and the other 
half to attacks on Catholic doctrines and institutions. Monasticism 
in particular aroused his ire, reflected in his charges that monastic 
life encourages nothing but laziness, that it is expensive and un- 
productive, that it defies nature in requiring celibacy, and that 
it thrives on the wealth of others. Despite the disclaimers in his 
preface, Dubourg even attacks doctrine. 

II n'est fait mention dans le nouveau Testament, ni de la concep- 
tion de la sainte Vierge, ni de sa nativit, ni de sa presentation, ni 


de son assomption. Toutes ces ftes ont t institutes par les papes 
pour r^chaujQEer la devotion des fiddles, depuis que la saintet de 
leurs moeurs a commence & s'alt&rer. 

Les Remains croient que les prteres des vivants peuvent tre utiles 
aux morts; les Am^ricains comptent que Dieu traitera chaque 
homme suivant ses m&ites, ou ses dm&ites. 

Dubourg has many other comments on the luxury of the church, 
on its lust for money, and on its fanaticism. He also gives his own 
deistical view of what true religion should be. 

Aimer Dieu souverainement, & nous conformer en tout 1'ordre 
qu'il a ^tabli; aimer notre prochain comme nous-mmes, & em- 
brasser tout le genre humain dans la sphere de notre bienveillance; 
voil en deux mots le sommaire de notre religion; & de qui 1'avons 
nous re^ue? De Dieu meme. 

As a contrast to the Catholic system, Dubourg makes several 
comments about his favorites, the Quakers, praising their sobriety, 
their pacifism, their refusing to swear, their simple faith, and their 
high morality. His system of deism is sketched in nearly complete 
form in the Calendrier, many of the entries being identical with 
passages in his Petit code. 

Among the famous writers whom Dubourg quotes are Franklin, 
Catherine the Great, Montesquieu, La Rochefoucauld, and Sol- 
omon. Franklin is cited more than any of the others; The Way 
to Wealth is seen to be the inspiration of the French Calendrier 
both in spirit and in form. 

Other editions of the Calendrier appeared, the last in 1823 
under the title Almanack de Philadelphie, in which the intro- 
duction is cut just at the point where Sancho is about to quote 
The Way to Wealth. Both the Qu^tant and the Dubourg trans- 
lations appear in the Almanack, however, in an even more curi- 
ous combination than in the original Calendrier; that is, passages 
from both appear in the almanac section, the text of which in 
the 1823 version is not the same as in the original edition. Al- 
though some passages are repeated from the 1777 edition, some 
are completely different. Of the passages from The Way to 
Wealth, those that had appeared in 1777 are still from the Du- 
bourg translation; the added ones are from the Qu&ant version. 

This edition also has a new preface obviously not written by 
Dubourg with the following tribute to Franklin. 


B. Franklin, under the name of Poor Richard and under the com- 
monplace form of an almanac yearly introduced into households, 
circulated the precepts of a salutary morality to citizens and heads 
of families. The alliance of all public and private duties was the 
basis of these annual lessons. For he wished to make his fellow- 
citizens enemies of despotism, submissive to law, jealous of their 
independence as well as industrious, upright, and temperate. He 
had recognized the intimate relation between the private virtues 
and the civic virtues, of liberty with morals, of particular interest 
with general interest; and to establish the happiness of his country 
upon the indissoluble union of these diverse elements was the effort 
of all his life. 

This paragraph epitomizes the impression that Poor Richard 
made upon French thought. Fifty years after Dubourg's trans- 
lation, the fallacy was still current that Franklin had considered 
his almanac a means of inculcating moral precepts and that it 
had political significance. Both concepts are completely false but 
will probably continue to be ineradicably associated with the 
Franklin legend. 

In both England and America, The Way to Wealth accounted 
for a large measure of Franklin's contemporary literary reputa- 
tion, but nowhere except in France was it taken seriously as a 
work of sublime morality. Indeed, largely as a result of this work, 
at least one Englishman considered Franklin as "a philosophical 
Quaker full of mean and thrifty maxims." S5 Another called his 
Poor Richard's Almanac "a heap ... of Scoundrel maxims." 86 
In both England and America there have been a number of dis- 
paraging opinions, but there is not to be found a single unfavor- 
able reference in eighteenth-century France. 


Neither Father Abraham nor Franklin himself was actually a 
"philosophical Quaker," but Franklin pretended to this char- 
acter during the period of his diplomatic negotiations in France. 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 242. 


He adopted this guise no doubt because of the high reputation 
accorded to the Quakers in France deriving from Voltaire's 
Lettres sur les Anglais and other works. Franklin assumed 
Quaker garb, adopted an extreme simplicity of manner, and 
affected a grave demeanor, quite out of keeping with his natural 
fun-loving disposition. In a sense, Franklin's public character as 
diplomat and statesman represented Father Abraham in action. 
The story of Franklin's diplomatic career in France belongs 
to the history of the American Revolution and cannot be com- 
pletely told as long as hundreds of official documents in various 
archives remain unpublished. The influence of Franklin's po- 
litical activities upon French-American literary relations and 
upon his own reputation, however, has little to do with these 
manuscript sources. For this subject we must turn to contempo- 
rary printed works. Of particular interest are reports concerning 
his negotiations at Versailles, tributes to his political talents and 
principles, and propaganda pieces that he himself inspired. 

The broad outlines are clear and consistent in all contemporary 
reports: Silas Deane, the original commissioner, created little 
interest and enjoyed scant success; Franklin, who succeeded him, 
won from the moment of his arrival a fantastic renown and the 
adulation of the people. At first when the British seemed to 
possess military supremacy, he remained in seclusion and could 
not be openly received at official functions. After Burgoyne's de- 
feat and the treaty of alliance, however, he was celebrated every- 
where, including the court, and became a popular idol. 

The most widely read or at least the most widely quoted 
contemporary account of Franklin's reception in France was the 
M6moires secrets, which periodically presented colorful episodes 
concerning one phase or another of Franklin's personality. The 
most ambitious attempt to incorporate the record of Franklin's 
negotiations into a literary framework, however, was a collection 
of political comment, gossip, and literary criticism entitled 
Uespion anglois, a blend of fanciful situations with actual docu- 
ments and eyewitness accounts. Inspired by Uespion turc of 
Marana and something on the order of Montesquieu's Lettres 
persanesj or Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, the collection has 
less satire and moralizing, more gossip and politics. 

In it, the uneventful sojourn of Deane is contrasted with the 


stir caused by Franklin's arrival, the reputed English spy report- 
ing that as soon as Franklin landed the adulation began; a spec- 
tator at Nantes writes that the voyage had tired him a little 
and that he seemed a little too old for worldly happiness; when 
curious folk speculated on the reasons for his coming to France, 
"the gullible were told that he was seeking rest, that he had 
brought his children to be given a Parisian education, and that 
he and his compatriots wished to Frenchify (franciser) their 
race." x This relatively authentic portrayal of Franklin's arrival 
may be compared with a contemporary manuscript journal in 
which Franklin is called a rich American more than eighty years 
old who has come to France in his character of orator and Presi- 
dent of Congress. 2 

The English spy prints at length a letter by the abb Flamarens 
(January 15, 1777) describing Franklin's early days in Paris. Parts 
of this letter were printed also in the Memoires secrets under dif- 
ferent dates (January 17, February 4), from which latter source 
they have been widely quoted and paraphrased ever since. The 
first two paragraphs in particular are among the most famous 
ever written about Franklin in France. 

Dr. Franklin, who arrived a short time ago from the English 
colonies, is much sought after and entertained, not only by his 
learned colleagues, but by everyone who can gain access to him, 
for he shows himself rarely and lives in a seclusion which is said 
to be prescribed by the government. This Quaker wears the full 
dress of his sect. He has a handsome physiognomy, glasses always 
on his eyes, very little hair, a fur cap, which he always wears on 
his head, no powder, but a neat appearance. Extremely white linen 
and a brown habit are his sole ornaments. He carries as his only 
defense a cane in his hand. 

He is very circumspect in public concerning the news from his 
country, which he praises constantly. He says that heaven, jealous 
of its beauty, sent the scourge of war. Our free thinkers have 
adroitly sounded him on his religion, and they maintain that they 
have discovered that he was of their own, that is, that he had none 
at all. 

There has been no lack of prints of Franklin, whose portrait has 
become the fashionable New Year's gift for this year. People keep 
it on the mantle as they formerly kept a statuette, and the simple 
and singular costume of this grave personage leads our fops and 
women to turn his likeness into ridicule almost in the manner of 


those futile knick-knacks which served as playthings thirty years 

This new representative of the Insurgents, moreover, has not yet 
appeared at Versailles. It is believed that this has been agreed upon 
in order not to upset the British Ambassador, who has made vig- 
orous protests on the subject and who would have wished that 
Franklin had not been admitted to the capital or even that he had 
been sent out of France as soon as he arrived. If he sees our min- 
isters, it is at Paris, it is at night, it is in the greatest secrecy. But 
he has frequent conferences with Messrs. Beaumarchais and le Ray 
de Chaumont. The first is the bow-wow of Monsieur and Madame 
de Maurepas and most likely the go-between. The second is an 
ardent, industrious and greedy man, who would grasp, if he could, 
the commerce of the thirteen united colonies, for himself alone. 

There follows after this genuine letter an imaginary dialogue 
between Franklin and the pretended English spy, who had pur- 
portedly known Franklin in England, and who petitions him for 
an interview, which is granted at Franklin's residence. The 
Englishman assures his host that he is filled with admiration for 
the determination of the colonists to resist British tyranny, but 
wonders whether they did not go too far in publishing their 
Declaration of Independence, which removed all possibility of 
reconciliation and left no possibility of reunion with England 
except through conquest and slavery. Franklin replies that there 
were wise men among them who had similar thoughts some who 
still retain them but independence was forced by necessity. With- 
out it, they could never have hoped for military aid from France. 
And without it, France would have continued to enrich its com- 
merce and would have been pleased to see both sides exhaust 
their men and resources. America needed France, Franklin fur- 
ther explains, but France did not need America. Vergennes had 
given him to understand that France could not offend England 
and thus instigate a war without the certainty that war would 
bring about a diminution of British power by the absolute and 
irrevocable separation of the colonies. There was a further po- 
litical reason: if France declared war first, it would appear that 
the American revolt came as a result of French action, whereas 
by joining a conflict already in progress France would seem to 
be merely taking advantage of the right to increase its com- 
merce. The purported spy then expresses his opinion that the 


Declaration of Independence should have been followed by 
heroic military actions that, he observes, seem to be lacking; 
indeed, the British seem to have had the upper hand in the last 
campaign, particularly in Long Island. Franklin answers that one 
of the reasons for his mission is to explain to the French that the 
American retreat was a necessary and strategic one; had they been 
able to defeat Howe, they would not have needed French aid 
at all. They lack equipment, arms, uniforms, and trained sol- 
diers but possess the courage and determination to fight a de- 
laying action until France provides the necessary material aid. 
The Englishman then mentions rumors that the Americans have 
been deceived and disappointed by the indirect aid that France 
has hitherto furnished. Franklin declares that nothing could be 
more true. 

Not only do they sell their merchandise extremely dear, but they 
give us only their rejects. In regard to arms especially, they have 
given us only discarded muskets, which have become in our hands 
more deadly to those who carry them than to our enemies; as for 
personnel, America has been the sewer of France. In place of the 
experienced officers which we need, good artillerymen, skilled en- 
gineers, we have received only blackguards, swindlers, men ruined 
in reputation or head over heels in debt, or conceited fops, insult- 
ing our sincerity, our good nature, seeking to debauch our wives 
and our daughters, fitted to infect us with their own corruption, 
carrying vices until then unknown among us. 

To the Englishman's remarks that they have had bad luck 
with their agents there could be little in common between the 
frivolous Beaumarchais and the austere republican Deane Frank- 
lin acknowledges the fact that the commissioners had not chosen 
Beaumarchais; the liaisons were begun with him and they were 
forced to continue with him. As the Englishman continues to 
cast more and more gloom over the chances of victory, suggesting 
that if the Americans lose because of the indifference or neglect 
of France, England may accord them advantageous terms provided 
that they promise to turn their efforts against France, Franklin 
indignantly retorts that they would never accept any offensive 
alliance with England, much less against France, their benefactor. 
He trusts the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vergennes, and knows 
that he is too much of a politician to allow the occasion of hu- 


miliating England to pass. The Englishman, in turn, asserts that 
he loves his own country and cannot help regretting the prospect 
of seeing France exalt herself on the ruins of England and Amer- 
ica. Franklin is forced to admit that France inwardly mocks at 
American suffering and calamities, that France is not aiding the 
Americans out of conviction of the justice of their cause nor out 
of desire to avenge the wrongs of suffering humanity, that secretly 
France regards them as rebels, and that France has behaved in 
even more tyrannical fashion than England toward her own 
colonies. Relating a few circumstances partially exonerating the 
French, Franklin then concludes with the statement, "In politics 
as in medecine in crises endangering life, one seeks to remedy 
the greatest and the most urgent evil; we cannot foresee what is 
going to happen in a century or in fifty years." With these words, 
Franklin bursts into tears, reflecting the deep concern he feels for 
the welfare of his country. 

Although purely fictitious, this is a shrewd contemporary 
analysis of the situation that actually prevailed. Later historical 
research can add to these details little except the knowledge that 
France initiated negotiations with the colonists in 1775 a year 
before Franklin's voyage and that Franklin himself had at first 
been opposed to seeking French aid. 3 

In an entry of later date, May 15, 1777, the English spy further 
sketches the indecision of the French government in its policy 
of waiting for a colonial military victory. Franklin had been 
officially instructed not to show himself at public assemblies, and 
the celebrity-seekers who had attended the April public meeting 
of the Academy of Sciences had been disappointed by his ab- 
sence. Even more significant, royal permission and approbation 
of the dedication to Franklin of a scholarly book had been re- 
voked. This suppressed dedication is one of the most interesting 
and concrete records of the symbolic role that Franklin played 
in the diplomatic negotiations of 1777. Virtually unknown in 
Franklin scholarship, it appeared in CEuvres de Bernard Palissy 
published by Ruault in 1777.* 

In offering you the works of Bernard Palissy, it is to honor the 
memory of the greatest natural philosopher which France produced 
in a time when natural history was still in its cradle. This profound 
observer, nearly forgotten for two centuries, could not reappear 


more worthily than under your auspices. The genius which char- 
acterized him is rediscovered in your works. Like him you announce 
the greatest truths with this modest tone which so well agrees with 
the true sage, and there is such a great analogy between Palissy's 
method and that which you have used for the discovery of phe- 
nomena of natural philosophy that I could not associate two names 
more worthy of the admiration of savants. But the French philos- 
opher, devoted entirely to the seeking of the secrets of nature, did 
not penetrate at all into those of politics, a science which the sages 
of antiquity cultivated as one of the most important of philosophy. 
You have realized its great value, Monsieur. Your works have for 
their purpose only the happiness of a free and virtuous people. 
Every nation which is concerned with the wisdom of its govern- 
ment has doubtless owed much to its first law-maker, but what does 
it not owe to those whose enlightenment and courage tend only to 
give a form more perfect and more stable to its laws. 

The people is fitted, said Montesquieu, "to choose those to whom 
it must confide a part of its authority; it makes its decisions only 
by things it is aware of and by facts which come under its ob- 

This dedication is signed by the bookseller Ruault, but the 
English spy asserts that it is certainly not by him. 

By the end of the year news of Burgoyne's defeat had given 
America a new prestige in France, and Franklin was now free 
to make public appearances. The English spy observed, Decem- 
ber 29, 1777, that Franklin had been given a tumultuous ovation 
both at the public meeting of the Academy of Sciences (Novem- 
ber 12) and at the opera. 5 The little taste that this grave and 
philosophical sage had for the glitter and spectacle of the occa- 
sion made the English spy conjecture that the situation had been 
contrived by the ministry. Franklin had been applauded by the 
grave and serious at the Academy and by the gallant and frivolous 
at the opera. But the surest indication of the success of his nego- 
tiations, the spy assumed, was his casting off the reserve that he 
formerly exhibited in regard to his country's affairs. "He says 
openly that the conquest of the siege of the Congress is a blunder 
of General Howe, that it was not he who had taken Philadelphia, 
but Philadelphia who had taken him; that surrounded by enem) 
positions and lacking communication by a free river, he must 
either evacuate in turn or be Burgoynized (burgonisf)." 

During and after Franklin's successful negotiations, man} 
French writers attempted to characterize his diplomatic aims and 


talents or to relate his political career to his personality or to 
his careers as scientist, journalist, or moralist. Since these writers 
by and large repeated the same generalities, there is little value 
in attempting to summarize their accounts. One of the best, by 
Charles Mayo, will serve as illustration. In a comparison between 
the United States and the federations of Switzerland and Holland 
published in 1787, Mayo describes the enthusiastic reception ac- 
corded to Franklin. 6 

, . . He was not given the title Monsieur; he was addressed simply 
Doctor Franklin, as one would have addressed Plato or Socrates. 
His genealogy was traced an attempt was made to claim him for 
France. What is most certain is that he was like Curtius, the off- 
spring of his virtues. He must have considered it a happiness to 
be born in a country where a genius for law-making could be dis- 
played, where probity, temperance, frugality were qualities esteemed 
and observed. Free in his thoughts, observations, writings and 
speech, he had given to his character this energy which makes sci- 
ence useful for oneself and profitable to others. He began by ob- 
serving nature; this sky which is not so elevated that it is to be 
considered beyond the man of genius; he had explained the causes 
of the aurora borealis and subsequently he demonstrated the secrets 
of electricity. If it is true that Prometheus was only a man, may 
one not believe that he was a natural philosopher like Franklin, 
who, like him, drew a line to the fire of heaven, but whose dis- 
covery has not been attended to. If he was not the first; if he had 
collaborators in the formation of the United States, ... it is none- 
theless true that Franklin made a great contribution. 

A footnote referring to genealogical studies explains that an at- 
tempt had been made to trace Franklin's ancestors to a family 
from Pontoise. This is probably based on a report in the Gazette 
of Amiens, April, 1780, that the name Franklin had French 
rather than English origins, that the name Franquelin is very 
common in Picardy, and that the Doctor's ancestors probably 
went to England with the fleet of Jean de Biencourt. 7 

Franklin himself was not at all averse to the stories about him 
in the French press. Even in the period before Burgoyne's defeat, 
any kind of publicity for Franklin was good publicity for the 
American cause. Franklin himself also directly engaged in jour- 
nalistic activities in France; his most elaborate project concerned 
participation in Affaires de FAngleterre et de I'AmMque, a propa- 
ganda periodical published in Paris in the interests of the Amer- 


ican governments. 8 Edited by Edmond-Charles Genet, the first is- 
sue appeared in May, 1776, before Franklin's arrival in Paris and 
featured a series of letters written by a fictitious Dutch banker 
living in Antwerp, a device with many resemblances to that of 
L'espion anglois. Franklin, soon after his appearance in Paris, 
began feeding propaganda items to Genet, most important, the 
constitutions of the various American states, which appeared sepa- 
rately in Affaires de I'Angleterre and were later reprinted in 1783 
in Constitutions des treize Etats-Unis* Franklin himself was the 
patron and sponsor of this significant edition, the first complete 
translation of all the state constitutions to be published. Franklin 
made arrangements with the printer and wrote to Vergennes ask- 
ing him to use his influence with the Keeper of the Seals to ob- 
tain permission for its prompt appearance. 10 Official approbation 
was granted June i6th. 

On at least one occasion Franklin sponsored a propaganda 
piece in the Journal de Paris, edited by his friend Cadet de Vaux. 
The abb Jean Louis Soulavie's Historical and Political Mem- 
oirs of the Reign of Lewis XVI is the source of all that is known 
of this piece allegedly concerted by Franklin and Soulavie, but 
there is no reason to doubt the truth of his narrative. 11 The corre- 
spondence of Soulavie and Franklin on scientific subjects still ex- 
ists, and the document that Soulavie maintains was the product 
of their collaboration was actually published in the Journal de 
Paris? 2 In reporting a conversation with Franklin, Soulavie indi- 
cates that Franklin asked him to explain the geological changes 
in sea and land that Soulavie had observed in southern France. 
Theories of naturalists had variously maintained that the sea re- 
tires, that it diminishes and loses its level, and that the mass of 
its water rises and increases. Franklin communicated his own ob- 
servation "that the rocks of Derbyshire abound with oyster-shells, 
and are greatly above the level of the sea; while the rock of the 
coal-mines of Whitehaven, covered with vegetation, is as much 
below as the former are above the same level/' Franklin actually 
had this conversation with Soulavie, for on September 22, 1782, 
Franklin sent him a letter concerning it, keeping a copy, which 
he endorsed, "Letter to Abbe SOULAVIE, occasioned by his 
sending me some Notes he had taken of what I had said to him 
in conversation on the theory of the Earth. I wrote it to set him 


right in some points wherein he had mistaken my meaning." 1S 
This letter was read at a meeting of the American Philosophical 
Society, November 21, 1788, with the title "On the Theory of 
the Earth." In it Franklin remarks in terms parallel with Soula- 
vie's version of their conversation that he had noticed oyster shells 
mixed in the stone of the lowest part of the calcareous rock in 
Derbyshire, "and part of the high county of Derby being prob- 
ably as much above the level of the sea, as the coal mines of 
Whitehaven were below it, seemed a proof that there had been 
a great bouleversement in the surface of that Island, some part 
of it having been depressed under the sea, and other parts which 
had been under it being raised above it." 14 Since this much of 
Soulavie's account can be verified, it is logical to assume that the 
rest also is completely reliable. But even though it be fictitious, 
it provides a unique portrait of Franklin as a political theorist. 

According to Soulavie, Franklin in August, 1781, pointed out 
to him an article in Le Courrier de I'Europe, dated August grd, 
in which Soulavie's Histoire naturelle de la France meridionale 
had been favorably mentioned. The writer had called for ex- 
planation of Soulavie's affirmation that the protestants of the 
Gvennes district in southern France had been in a rebellious 
state for two centuries and "had listened to the natural enemies 
of France, and, assisted by them, had endeavoured to establish 
a republic in the very center of the nation, defended by inac- 
cessible rocks, and the loftiest mountains." Franklin in his con- 
versation drew a parallel between the attempts of the French 
protestants to create an independent state and the geological 
changes that Soulavie had reported in southern France; these 
revolutions in nature Franklin compared to those in the moral 
or political world. "One continent becomes old, another rises 
into youth and perfection. But the perfected continent will in 
its turn correct the other. Monarchies, by way of restoration, be- 
come republics, republics sink into monarchies; and the author 
of the Courrier de I'Europe, as curious as myself, and my tea 
party, desires to learn from you, who is the natural enemy you 
mention of the French monarchy, that wished to raise a protestant 
republic in the heart of your southern mountains." 

Soulavie answered that just as the French in ages past had 
made secret war upon England by assisting their insurgents, so 


England had encouraged the protestants of the Cvennes to re- 
volt, with the hope of there establishing an independent protes- 
tant republic. Franklin thereupon suggested to Soulavie that he 
write the history of this movement and submit it to Louis XVI 
and Vergennes, who would certainly approve it. Soulavie ob- 
jected that Franklin, as a protestant, even though a professed 
friend of France, must inevitably "approve the desire England 
has shown of dismembering France, for the benefit of liberty." 
Franklin replied, 

Were I a Frenchman, a Cevegnol, a mountaineer, a protestant, sub- 
ject of Lewis XVI, and harassed by his dragoons, I should prefer 
the safety of my country to the disagreeable alternative of seeking 
in a foreign land the protection of an English or Prussian monarch; 
but we are at a period already remote from this, a relation of which 
may serve to show the justice of the present war, by way of reprisal 
on the part of France; since it is but repaying the injury which Eng- 
land has already committed against her, by interfering in her in- 
ternal concerns, and raising up a religion in the state which dis- 
sents from the head of the state. I certainly love liberty, and esteem 
a republican government; but a republican minister, though de- 
voted to his country, may know how to forget his own predilection 
in favour of a friendly monarchy. Therefore, considering this at- 
tempt of the English as equally rash and criminal, I shall thankfully 
receive your papers; and if you will give me a letter to M. de 
Vergennes, I will present it to him, and recommend the papers with 
the force which a matter of so much importance merits. 

Soulavie agreed to compose a letter, but dissented from Frank- 
lin's opinion that the English scheme was rash or unpolitic. He 
argued that the religious protestants present no threat to internal 
security because the government leaves them alone, but protes- 
tants of another kind, "the ignorant class of the lower people, 
who are burdened with imposts, and the more enlightened, who 
are malcontents" these constitute a real danger. 

The party that desires, and the party that dreads, a new order of 
things, agree in this, that France will one day suffer a greater revo- 
lution than that which America has experienced. I speak of the 
clergy, who said officially to Lewis XV, before his death, that a 
revolution was preparing in the state, similar to the English one 
of 1688; and I refer to the philosophers, who long for a revolution, 
and are preparing one against religion. I refer particularly to 
Buffon, who said to me in December 1778, that this revolution 


would direct its first efforts against the French clergy, and who 
advised me to take care of myself. 

These remarks forecasting the French Revolution were not, we 
must remember, written until after the event and thus may re- 
flect the prescience of a retrospective view. According to Soulavie, 
Franklin not only did not foresee the Revolution, but repudiated 
Soulavie's forebodings: 

France is in a state strongly constituted, and, I doubt not, will 
long resist the spirit of innovation that overturns government. I 
therefore think, that neither you or I shall live to see the changes 
you speak of, and for this reason, that the continent is equally old 
in all its parts, and France the youngest and most robust of all 
its states. At the same time it must be owned, that the protestants 
are no friends to a government, at the head of which is the body 
who treated them so ill; but they would hardly expose their frail 
existence to the danger of a sedition. They possess no longer that 
characteristic turbulence by which they were marked prior to the 
reign of Lewis XIV, who polished all degrees of the French: nor 
do the government or the clergy carry their intolerance to the same 
excess to which they extended it in past ages. The time is come 
when history can record the faults of both parties; and, in my opin- 
ion, a narrative of the attempts made by England to raise a revolt 
among the French protestants under Lewis XIV, would be a point 
of history truly interesting. 

Under the urging of Franklin, Soulavie prepared a letter set- 
ting forth the discoveries of his historical research, which Frank- 
lin passed on to Vergennes. In his letter Soulavie showed that 
from 1627 until the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Eng- 
lish had continually acted in France to fix a spot noted for protes- 
tant worship as "the central point of an independent republic, 
to be divided into provinces, and to have cities, and a capital, at 
the expense of the rest of the kingdom." 

In the following year when a party in France developed as a 
focus of opposition to the American war, Franklin urged Soulavie 
to publish his discoveries, hoping that they would show the need 
of retaliating against the English. "The Journal de Paris/' he 
said, "will readily insert an article so curious; which, however, 
must be written in a form, that, while the truth done to history 
is observed in it, the protestants may take no offense at it." 

Soulavie again agreed to do Franklin's bidding, but argued that 


the work would "neither alter the English plans, nor influence 
the fate of France." England, he felt, was actively engaged not 
only in fomenting a spirit of independence among the Cevennese 
protestants, but also of encouraging independence and republi- 
canism among the philosophers; in other words, he suggested that 
the English government consciously promoted the French Revo- 
lution, a rather unrealistic view. He stated to Franklin, neverthe- 
less, "I shall execute my task the more willingly, as, in opposition 
to the republican and political commotions aimed at by England, 
you agree with me as to the propriety of pointing out at the same 
time the moral remedies to be attempted by a wise and prudent 
government to the miseries of the revolution and anarchy, of 
which the clergy and the philosophers so eternally warn us." 

Soulavie's article appeared in the Journal de Paris, June 26, 
1782, as an appendix to an announcement concerning the manu- 
scripts he had discovered during his research in the southern prov- 
inces of France. In his Memoires historiques he added the title, 
"The Former Plans of England for Erecting our Southern Protes- 
tant Provinces into a Republic." In this essay he sketches very 
briefly the efforts of the English to separate the southern protes- 
tants, but prudently assures his readers that the dissensions have 
long been at an end and the spirit of fanaticism extinct. After 
indicating an intention of preparing a History of the Establish- 
ment and Progress of Protestantism in France and Europe, he sug- 
gests that his primary aim will be to solve the political problem. 

When a portion of a great monarchy has, for many ages, experi- 
enced intestine commotion and religious wars, and the rebellion 
raised in the state has opposed the monarch, what are the means, 
most conformable to humanity, which reason and experience dic- 
tate, for the restoration of public tranquillity? 

Soulavie remarked that this article planned by himself and Frank- 
lin had appeared in the Journal de Paris exactly as submitted ex- 
cept that some additional political remedies against anarchy were 
rejected by the editors on the grounds that since the state of the 
nation had never been more tranquil or more remote from revo- 
lution, the remedies against anarchy were out of place. Since these 
remedies seem to show the hand of Franklin they are worth re- 


The most effectual way to alleviate the tumults of a state, is, to 
divert the attention of the parties from the subjects. This may be 
done by directing their minds 

To a species of learning that has no connexion with any thing 
seditious, nor with polemical writings and factions, which are the 
pests of a state. 

To a system of general commerce. 

To the study of the fine arts. 

To great undertakings, such as national buildings. 

To the ridicule of past violences and errors, political or religious 
(but this with the utmost caution). 

To pleasure, festivals, amusements, fashions, dances, and luxury. 
And lastly, 

By softening the manners of the turbulent; taking every means 
of gaining the surviving leaders, and especially the means of nego- 

Of these remedies, Soulavie asserted that Franklin agreed that 

to divert men's minds, was the only way, after great events of allay- 
ing the seditious spirit of a people. But he did not fully approve 
the last means, that of softening then* manners. He said, that the 
societies established in Europe were already too much softened. He 
acknowledged, however, that fanaticism, anarchy, and all the vices 
of an impetuous class, originate in a state of mind, which force 
and violence tend to increase rather than correct; and, he observed, 
that the very best way of softening those who laboured under them, 
was to treat with the factious. He was of the opinion, that attach- 
ment to kings, and the love of liberty, were two powerful and 
laudable springs of action, which had produced great effects; and, 
though in this country the republican and royal parties had en- 
tered into a struggle for superiority, he felt the utmost veneration 
for Lewis XVI, whom he looked upon as the founder of the liberties 
of the United States. 

Nothing in this opinion is incompatible with views Franklin ex- 
pressed in his correspondence or with the principles he followed 
in his own behavior. If Soulavie's portrayal of Franklin is not a 
literal transcript of actual conversations, which it purports to be, 
it is at least an accurate reflection of both his manner of expres- 
sion and habits of thought. 

Another political-economic work that helped establish French 
opinion of Franklin as a diplomat and statesman appeared origi- 
nally in the Journal d'dconomie publique (10 Vent6se An V 
February, 1797). The editors remarked that this essay, "Hausse- 


ment des salaires en Europe, effet de la prospering de I'Amerique," 
had been given to them by "a friend of M. Franklin, and having 
been found in his papers, is very probably by this illustrious phi- 
losopher/' This highly-significant essay contains a number of 
clearly-stated political maxims particularly the forthright decla- 
ration that the object of all political association is the happiness 
of the greatest number. Although Franklin during his public 
life wrote hundreds of political documents and propaganda pieces, 
in none of them does he directly set forth in this manner the theo- 
retical foundations of the particular schemes he advocates. After 
its initial appearance in French, this piece attracted the attention 
of J. W. von Archenholz in Hamburg, who translated it for his 
Minerva, ein journal historischen und politischen, where it ap- 
peared in the following month. 15 When J. Cast6ra, French trans- 
lator of the works of Franklin, published his edition in 1798, he 
took this essay from the Minerva, translating it for the second 
time, for he had been unable to find a copy of the Journal d'econ- 
omie publique. Finally, the American editor of Franklin, Jared 
Sparks, took the essay from the edition of Castera, retranslating 
it for the third time. 17 

It is unfortunate that Castera was unable to find a file of the 
Journal d'economie, for in the subsequent issue we are told that 
the essay is not by Franklin! We find a second essay with the fol- 
lowing explanation: 

We had believed these two works to be Franklin's since they 
were given to us in 1791 by M. de la Rochefoucauld, who told us 
they came to him from the philosopher himself, who was his friend. 
Our conjecture has been proved false. The essay which has ap- 
peared, and the one which now appears, are by another friend of 
Franklin, the abb Morellet. 

It appears, however, that the edition of Castera was much more 
widely circulated and read in France than was the explanation of 
the editors of the Journal d'economie publique^ particularly when 
we remember that Castera was unable to find a copy of the lat- 
ter. For the French public, therefore, the social and political prin- 
ciples of Franklin were those of the essay of the abb6 Morellet 
imbued with benevolence and philanthropy. 



The essay on political theory that we have just discussed appeared 
several years after Franklin's death. During the period of Frank- 
lin's actual sojourn in France, no comprehensive statement of 
his political beliefs circulated in print. Surprising as it may seem, 
his reputation as a political leader was based exclusively on his 
personality and his reported or purported opinions. His anti- 
British propaganda pieces that appeared in Affaires de I' Angle- 
terre et de I'Amdrique tell us nothing about political theory ex- 
cept that the British method was manifestly improper for hold- 
ing an empire together. While working tirelessly as a propagan- 
dist for the American cause, Franklin circulated in France the 
theories of his compatriots rather than his own ideas. An Ameri- 
can document that he caused to become one of the most widely 
read in France was the state constitution of Pennsylvania, the 
framing of which he had been partially responsible for, and 
French opinion assumed that it was completely a reflection of his 
own political theories. His attitude toward hereditary aristocracy 
and a legislature of a single house, moreover, had a direct in- 
fluence upon several leaders of the French Revolution even 
though his writings on these subjects were carefully concealed 
during his residence in France. Franklin died within a year after 
the outbreak of the French Revolution, but prior to his death 
he wrote to some of his friends on the new turn of events. 

Before examining the influence of his reputation on the French 
Revolution, let us consider his early attitude toward the people 
and policies of the French nation an attitude that explains in 
some measure his conduct as a diplomatic representative at the 
court of Louis XVI. As we have already seen, Franklin first came 
to the attention of the French public as a scientist. He was so 
pleased with the praise of Louis XV, "this sweetest kind of mu- 
sic/' that he copied out for a friend the passage from Peter Col- 
Notes to this chapter begin on page 243. 


linson's letter announcing his triumph. 1 Before his first visit to 
France, however, Franklin could not have been considered in 
any sense a Francophile; on the eve of his departure, he wrote 
to his son (August 28, 1767), "I fancy that intriguing nation 
would like very well to ... blow up the coals between Britain 
and her colonies; but I hope we shall give them no opportunity." 2 
During his first two weeks in France, he was presented at Ver- 
sailles to the King and Queen. Although favorably impressed by 
the serenity and benignity of the Queen, the graciousness and 
cheerfulness of the King, he insisted that "no Frenchman shall 
go beyond me in thinking my own King and Queen the very best 
in the world, and the most amiable." 3 He noticed among all 
stations of Frenchmen a uniform courtesy and politenessespe- 
cially to strangers. This led him to inquire, "Why don't we prac- 
tise this urbanity to Frenchmen? Why should they be allowed to 
outdo us in any thing?" He readily adapted himself to the French 
mode. "I had not been here Six Days, before my Taylor and 
Perruquier had transform'd me into a Frenchman. Only think 
what a Figure I make in a little Bag-Wig and naked Ears!" This 
is Franklin at the age of sixty-one. Ten years later he created a 
sensation by laying aside his wig and powder and wearing his 
hair au naturel. 

When he returned to France as a Commissioner from Con- 
gress, he continued to remark on the cordiality, respect, and af- 
fection with which Americans were received and treated in 
France. He noticed the boorishness of the English, the gracious- 
ness of the French, on a national as well as an individual level. 
"America has been forc'd and driven into the Arms of France. 
She was a dutiful and virtuous Daughter. A cruel Mother-in-Law 
turn'd her out of Doors, defam'd her, and sought her life. All 
the World knows her Innocence, and takes her part; and her 
Friends hope soon to see her honourably married," 4 

In the next year Franklin continued to compliment the French 
people on their politeness and civility. 

They have certainly advanced in those Respects many degrees be- 
yond the English. I find them here a most amiable Nation to live 
with. The Spaniards are by common Opinion supposed to be cruel, 
the English proud, the Scotch insolent, the Dutch Avaricious, &c, 
but I think the French have no national Vice ascrib'd to them. 


They have some Frivolities, but they are harmless. To dress their 
Heads so that a Hat cannot be put on them, and then wear their 
Hats under their Arms, and to fill their Noses with Tobacco, may 
be called Follies, perhaps, but they are not Vices. They are only 
the effects of the tyranny of Custom. In short, there is nothing 
wanting in the Character of a Frenchman, that belongs to that of 
an agreeable and worthy Man. There are only some Trifles surplus, 
or which might be spared. 5 

Franklin found the French ladies, in particular, eager to please 
and to shower kindnesses upon him. Their complaisance he ex- 
plained in detail to one of his nieces. 

This is the civilest nation upon Earth. Your first Acquaintances 
endeavour to find out what you like, and they tell others. If 'tis un- 
derstood that you like Mutton, dine where you will you will find 
Mutton. Somebody, it seems, gave it out that I lov'd Ladies, and then 
every body presented me their Ladies (or the Ladies presented them- 
selves) to be embraced, that is to have their Necks kiss'd. For as to 
kissing of Lips or Cheeks it is not the Mode here, the first, is reck- 
on'd rude, 8c the other may rub off the Paint. The French Ladies 
have however 1000 other ways of rendering themselves agreeable; 
by their various Attentions and Civilities, & their sensible Con- 
versation. 'Tis a delightful People to live with. 6 

On his return to Philadelphia, he wrote to Mme. Lavoisier his 
most gracious tribute to the courtesy and charm of the French 
nation. Now on his native heath and enjoying everything that a 
reasonable mind could desire an adequate income, a comfortable 
home of his own construction, an affectionate daughter, promis- 
ing grandchildren, old friends, and public honors and distinction 
all could not make him forget Paris and the nine years' happi- 
ness he enjoyed there, "in the sweet Society of a People, whose 
Conversation is instructive, whose Manners are highly pleasing, 
and who above all the Nations of the World, have in the greatest 
Perfection the Art of making themselves belov'd by Strangers. 
And now, even in my Sleep I find, that the Scenes of all my pleas- 
ant Dreams are laid in that City, or in its Neighbourhood." 7 In 
the same year, he wrote to La Rochefoucauld that his vital inter- 
est in French current events came from his love for that country 
a love for which he had a thousand reasons. Its happiness con- 
cerned him, he wrote, as would the happiness of his own mother. 8 
After the outbreak of the Revolution, Franklin wrote to Ben- 


jamin Vaughan, "The Revolution in France is truly surprising. I 
sincerely wish it may end in establishing a good constitution for 
that country. The mischiefs and troubles it suffers in the opera- 
tion, however, give me great concern." 9 The importance of this 
passage is not the affection shown for France it is evident in 
scores of other Franklin letters but the admission that the 
French Revolution came as a surprise to Franklin, for at least 
two French authors during the revolutionary period maintain 
that Franklin had actually predicted the social upheaval in their 
country. Before I discuss these French sources I wish to present 
another statement by Franklin prior to 1789 in which he clearly 
expressed the view that France was a benevolent monarchy with 
its administration in no danger whatsoever of a revolt from below. 
He foresaw revolution in Europe but assumed that it would take 
place through the aid of the French king. This statement, not 
found in any edition of Franklin's works, appeared in a news- 
paper, where it was described as a letter from Franklin to a 
friend in London. 10 The analysis of political tensions in the let- 
ter would quite logically have developed from Franklin's experi- 
ence in both Great Britain and France. 

The political world, within the last half century, has assumed 
a variety of aspects, and from present appearances, it is still as un- 
settled as ever. The states of Europe are ripe for slavery, and their 
respective governments are ready and prone to take every advan- 
tage of the people. It is not easy to decypher the various prob- 
lematic governments of the several powers on the continent; but 
there is none of them which does not seem very much interested 
in the politics of England. Your patriots have certainly served their 
country. The reform which they broached is the only expedient the 
poor peasantry of England have yet in reserve to protect themselves 
from plunder and despotism. The Irish may probably make a bad 
cause of a very good one. The shame in that country seems too rapid 
and fierce to be lasting; those of property expect nothing but ruin 
from the idleness and dissipation of their dependants; and in this 
situation it requires more public spirit than they have yet discovered 
to refuse a bribe. The Scotch are a selfish, but cool, intrepid, and 
ingenious people. They will cany their object, because they adopt 
no measures which are not rational and plausible. How truly re- 
spectable and great does the French king appear, in the midst of 
all these intrigues and impending revolutions! His memory will go 
down to posterity, loaded with glory; it will be said of him, that 
he protected the states general from imperial tyranny. It is not 


impossible, but it may also be said of him, that both Ireland and 
Scotland were emancipated by his means from their present miser- 
able subjection to their haughty English task-masters. 

If this is a genuine letterand there is every reason to think that 
it is it is hard to imagine that Franklin in any sense predicted 
the French Revolution. Yet a reviewer of his Memoires in the 
Journal de Paris states flatly that he did. 

One thing that is certain is that circumstances serve more and more 
to keep the memory of Franklin interesting, for one is aware that 
in contributing so effectively toward making his country free he 
had greatly accelerated the progress of political ideas among us. He 
even predicted the future influence that they were bound to have 
upon the French. "You see," he said, "liberty establish itself one 
day in a society nearly under your eyes; soon you will wish to pro- 
cure it for yourselves." X1 

An even stronger and more explicit statement was made by 
Cerutti in his notes to Les Jardins de Betz, 1792. We are familiar 
with Cerutti's expansive rhetoric from our previous discussion 
of Bonhomme Richard. The following discourse, however, is 
probably not mere rhetorical embellishment of something Frank- 
lin once said; it is more likely pure fantasy. 12 

American independence is, so to speak, the tocsin of universal lib- 
erty. Europe sooner or later will become insurgent. France will pro- 
vide the example. The fatality of circumstances, the part that she 
has had in the triumphs of America, the prodigious flight of mod- 
ern philosophy, and the irresistible character of an impatient and 
variable people, everything augurs, everything promises a revolu- 
tion. The immortal Franklin predicted it: "You will not delay," 
he announced to us, "to follow the impulse of America and you 
will go even farther than America. In fact, we had only to repel 
a distant power; you will be required to stifle three enemy nations. 
We had only recent and visible wounds to cure; you will have to 
extirpate deep and inveterate cancers. The centuries, the tyrants, 
the slaves in place more dangerous than the tyrants, have accu- 
mulated, interwoven, organized your abuses in such a way that 
they are made to seem natural and indestructible; they compose 
in their monstrous disorder an apparent order that sustains itself 
by its general effect and imposes itself by its mass. Your philosophers 
have uncovered this gothic assemblage, but they have not been able 
to overthrow a prejudice which serves as its prop: this prejudice 
consists in some brilliant souvenirs of your history, in some for- 
tunate epochs of your nation; finally, in this disastrous but daz- 



zling splendor which from the height of the French throne seems 
to cover far and wide all the ruins of monarchy. Thus in order 
to repair everything you will be forced to dissolve everything. The 
haste of reforms, the slowness of substitutions, the most ruinous 
impact of blind resistance, the sudden defiance or the sudden apathy 
of an unthinking or irritated multitude, the ferocious cry of some 
eloquent tigers, the rapid influence of subterranean factions, which, 
without revealing themselves, give blows to the earth, all will con- 
tribute to throw you into the convulsions and the chaos of anarchy. 
You will come out of it bleeding and mutilated. A single night of 
anarchy, say the Neapolitan slaves, causes more havoc than a cen- 
tury of despotism. But liberty sows upon a fertile field and slavery 
upon a dead earth. Five hundred oriental empires are deserts de- 
spite their renown; the Janissary Turk has destroyed them, not by 
the sword, but by the tyranny of his depredations. The marshes of 
Holland, the rocks of Switzerland, the plains of our colonies have 
flourished anew after frightful devastations. Is it possible to escape 
this scourge of the moment? No. Would it be preferable to remain 
in the mire of abuse? No. There is no mechanical art, no important 
occupation which does not expose the most useful citizen to con- 
stantly reviving perils. Must one abdicate employment, desert work- 
shops, in order to seek a haven in inertia and uselessness? . . . 
Frenchmen, you have a struggle facing you, and you will be vic- 
torious. Parliaments will not be the most difficult colossus to over- 
throw. Although they seem to be interwoven with the foundations 
of monarchy, they are merely concealed under old ruins, and they 
will collapse like a tower founded upon crumbling rocks. The 
nobles, proprietors of half of the realm, will oppose the weight of 
riches against that of number. They will wish first to bury them- 
selves under the throne, then to bury themselves under their 
chateaux, finally, to bury themselves under the childish mass of 
their arms and decorations. The clergy can never detach itself 
either from Rome, which gives it its independence, or from its 
abbeys, which give it its splendor, or from this superb domination 
which they exert over the people and which they extend over phi- 
losophy. They will resist to the death. Do you remember the words 
of King Edward: "I succeeded in ridding England of all the wolves 
in the land. I wanted to banish two turbulent priests, but was 
unable to do so." 

Like the words of King Edward, this narrative is probably purely 

Whether he predicted it or not, Franklin had influence upon 
the progress of the French Revolution. The air Qa ira, which be- 
came the battle song of the popular forces, owed its inspiration 
to Franklin, according to a number of authorities, among them 


an English observer of the Revolution, Helen Maria Williams. 
"To those who asked as an idle question how the American Revo- 
lution was progressing, he customarily replied laconically, ga ira. 
This response, which he hurled indistinctly at the curious, was 
later adopted by the patriots, and the remark of Franklin became 
the refrain of the revolutionary song." 1S 

At a fete in Auteuil in the summer of 1792, the mayor paid 
tribute to "the patriarch of free men." 

He was an expert printer, excellent farmer, great scientist, profound 
legislator and politician. America owes him its independence; the 
world owes him its lightning-rods. His genius inspired a revolution 
on the earth and in the sky. . . . He was the first village journal- 
ist; he invented the proverbs of Poor Richard; he even invented 
the refrain ga ira, this air dear to the patriots. 

Cerutti, who reported this ceremony in La Feuille Villageoise, 
gave the conventional explanation that when news from America 
seemed to be bad and Franklin's friends inquired of him anx- 
iously, he replied always with assurance, "Soyez tranquille, $a 
ira." " 

While the whole populace sang a ira, the intellectuals, alone, 
studied Franklin's words on hereditary aristocracy and the con- 
stituency of a legislature. His sentiments on the first subject were 
introduced to the French public by Mirabeau, who, as Franklin 
knew, was engaged in translating an American work by Aedanus 
Burke denouncing the recently-formed Society of the Cincin- 
natus. At about the same time, Franklin's daughter, Sarah Bache, 
wrote to him to ask his opinion of the Society, and in his answer 
Franklin exposed the ridiculousness of the organization. After re- 
reading his remarks, written originally as a purely personal epistle, 
Franklin apparently perceived that they merited publication for 
a wider audience. He arranged with Mirabeau, therefore, that the 
latter incorporate the most important passages of the letter in the 
notes to Mirabeau's translation of Aedanus Burke's book under 
the title of Considerations sur Vordre de Cincinnati^, 1785. 

Bernard Fay in considering this work has given full informa- 
tion on the circumstances of publication and on the relations be- 
tween other writings of Franklin and the letter to Sarah Bache, 
but he completely ignores the participation of Chamfort, 15 who, 
as the letters of Mirabeau to Chamfort will show, engaged in the 


translation with Mirabeau. These letters provide, moreover, valu- 
able information concerning the circumstances of publication. 

In his letter to Sarah Bache, one of the most politically radical 
of his entire life, Franklin declares the organizing of an order 
of hereditary knights to be contrary to the good sense of the 
country. The notion of honor descending to posterity is not only 
groundless and absurd, he declares, "but often hurtful to that 
Posterity, since it is apt to make them proud, disdaining to be 
employ'd in useful Arts, and thence falling into Poverty." 16 He 
shows by mathematical calculations that the same blood does not 
descend in its entirety to subsequent generations (a man's son 
acquiring half of his blood from the wife's family). In nine gen- 
erationsa period of only 300 years the share of a distinguished 
ancestor's blood in a male heir would be but a 1/51 2th part. 

Franklin first of all transmitted his remarks on hereditary dis- 
tinctions to the abb Morellet for translating. The latter turned 
them into French, but advised his friend not to publish them, 17 
pointing out that some of Franklin's aristocratic acquaintances 
might be offended and suggesting that the piece be shown only 
to those with enough of the true philosophy to perceive the ab- 
surdity of the aristocratic system. Unfortunately, we cannot be 
sure whether Mirabeau and Chamfort saw the manuscript merely 
as two of these advanced spirits or whether Franklin expressly 
presented them with a copy to be used as they saw fit. All we 
know is that Franklin noted in his journal, July 13, 1784, that 
Mirabeau and Chamfort visited him to read their translation of 
the Considerations. They intended it, he wrote, "as a covered 
satire against noblesse in general. It is well done." 1S Two months 
after this visit, Franklin wrote to Benjamin Vaughan, asking him 
to help arrange the printing of the piece, which he described as 
"extremely well written, with great Clearness, Force and Ele- 
gance." 19 Mirabeau's adopted son declared in 1834 that Franklin 
had urged Mirabeau to undertake the work, but Franklin's per- 
sonal journal indicates that Mirabeau and Chamfort themselves 
took the initiative. Mirabeau himself remarked to an admirer 
that he had written the Considerations in order to gain money 
for his own sustenance and that of his mistress, Mme. de Nerac, 20 
for at the time he had no other means of support but his pen. It 


is of interest to note that this is the first work that Mirabeau pub- 
lished under his own name. 

The first of the printed correspondence between Mirabeau 
and Chamfort that concerns the Considerations (letter unfortu- 
nately without date) indicates that Chamfort began the enter- 
prise alone. 

. . . for a spirit as fresh and as strong as yours, such a subject is 
an inspiration, especially when the writer presents a theory which 
is almost exclusively his own and the practice of which has com- 
posed and directed his life. It is, however, a remarkable and curi- 
ous thing that philosophy and liberty should arise in the heart 
of Paris to warn the new world of the dangers of servitude and to 
show to it from afar the fetters which menace its posterity. Never 
has eloquence defended a more noble cause. Perhaps it is only the 
corrupt nations which are able to give enlightenment to the bur- 
geoning ones. Enlightened by their own evils, they can at least 
teach the new nations to avoid them, and even servitude may be 
useful in becoming the school-master of liberty. 21 

The contemporary editor who published these letters assures us 
that this passage concerns the work on the Cincinnatus, "of which 
the most brilliant passages are Chamfort's." 

In the next letter on the subject, Mirabeau asserts that Frank- 
lin wanted the material to be published as quickly as possible, 
and it appears that Mirabeau shared his impatience. The am- 
biguities in the writing are obviously caused by the fear that 
these letters might be intercepted by the royalist authorities. 

... so much has it been necessary for me to engage in explanation 
with F ... in order to explain the delay. Do not rely on the time 
that is necessary for me, for if I had the manuscript which M. 
Thomas has kept in order to make his notes, all would be re- 
arrangedsince the passages of transition are ready. Of course it 
is a new work, but this is not a reason that it should take forever, 
especially since it is talked about: for the waiting to complete is 
always a painful destiny. 22 

The first of the letters bearing a date, August 30, 1784, reveals 
that Mirabeau is acquainted with the intimate Mends of Frank- 
lin, the abb de la Roche and Le Veillard. In addition, he ex- 
horts Chamfort to persuade Franklin to interest Doctor Richard 
Price in the publication of the work. 


. . . Here is what is urgent: Doctor Price is in London; he is an 
intimate friend of Franklin. That Franklin recommend the work 
to him or at least the author. Then I should turn to account a 
useful book undertaken to please them something for which I 
have the greatest need. Do not neglect this I implore you. 23 

In another letter, November 10, 1784, Mirabeau explains that he 
proposes to add a translation of Price's pamphlet Observations on 
the importance of the American Revolution to the book on the 
Cincinnatus, and in his next letter, December 30, he points out 
that a large part of the essay entitled "Reflexions sur 1'ouvrage 
precedent," printed as an appendix to the work of Price, was writ- 
ten by the friend of Franklin, the advocate Target. 

Finally, we learn from Mirabeau some of the circumstances of 
the publication of his work, from an undated letter, in which he 
informs Chamfort that the best means of dying of hunger in 
London is to be a good French author. 

. . . For the rest, the Cincinnati is being printed, which will bring 
me very little, but at least will cost me nothing, and which a man 
of much talent has well translated [Sir Samuel Romilly] so that the 
English edition will appear almost as soon as the French. But judge 
by what occurs in this regard of the scant resources which the 
English printing trade offers. Two booksellers of Paris useless to 
name them by post, but one is rich and solid have offered to take 
1500 copies at 50 sous provided that they be delivered at a certain 
city at the border. We had great trouble to persuade the English 
bookseller to set the French edition at 1500 copies, and if the work 
had not produced a very great effect upon some men of renown 
here, not a single bookseller would have printed it at his own 
risk. 2 * 

We know now that despite the hesitation of the English print- 
ers the work had a great success. Chamfort was at first inclined 
to allow to Mirabeau all of the credit for the work, but later 
during the French Revolution when accused of being a defender 
of the nobility, disclosed the role he had played in its composi- 
tion. In the following passage he speaks of himself in the third 

It is a man to whom this so-called mania against the nobility 
dictated the most vigorous passages inserted in the book on the 
American order of Cincinnatus, work published in 1786, which de- 
livered the most forceful blows against the French aristocracy in 
public opinion. 25 


To these proofs of the collaboration of Mirabeau and Chamfort, 
we need add merely the comment on Mirabeau presented by the 
contemporary editor of Chamfort's works. 

Chamfort had a great part in many of his first works and in the 
one which brought him the greatest honor; in other words, in his 
work on the order of the Cincinnatus, the most eloquent passages 
are Chamfort's. . . . This fact is very well known by all who are 
acquainted with the literary productions of this period. Those who 
are not will find obvious proofs in the letters of Mirabeau which 
are ready to appear. 26 

It is unquestionable, moreover, that Chamfort enjoyed intimate 
relations with Franklin's circle of friends. It was he, for example, 
who furnished Cast6ra the letter from Franklin to Mme. Hel- 
v6tius. 27 

Franklin's complete letter on the Cincinnatus was apparently 
not published during his lifetime, but three months after his 
death one month after public homage was paid to him in the 
National Assembly Morellet's translation was printed in full as 
a weapon in the movement to destroy the system of hereditary 
nobility in France. 28 An introductory essay by Phillipe Antoine 
Grouvelle, friend of Chamfort and later the member of the Con- 
vention who read the death sentence to Louis XVI, pointed out 
that it was important for the French to understand Franklin's 
reasons for opposing a system of deadly prejudice at its inception 
in America, as they were the same reasons the French had for 
contending against it in its decadence. 

Grouvelle used the example of Franklin himself as one of the 
principal arguments against the system. The advocates of the 
noblesse, who maintain that patriotic service, virtue, and heroic 
actions are the origin of aristocracy, could not find a man more 
distinguished in virtue and accomplishment than Franklin; yet 
the general effect of glory and illustriousness that he personified 
does not in the least require the creation of a system of nobility 
parallel to that which has just expired. "Can you imagine that 
Franklin's son and his nephews will be any otherwise distin- 
guished in Boston than by their own individual advantages? Ask 
them whether they do not rather dread the unfavorable compari- 
son which their name will always suggest at the expense of their 


Citing Franklin's work, not only because in it he attacks the 
superstition of the nobility, but because he ridicules all kinds of 
frivolous and dangerous distinctions in society, Grouvelle regret- 
ted that Franklin did not remain in France that he had been 
unable to witness the marvels of the Revolution and that he had 
been unable to assist the patriots with his experience. Finally, he 
compared Franklin to the philosophers of antiquity, who antici- 
pated the knowledge of centuries and who were as superior to 
posterity as to their contemporaries. 

Two years later the letter was again translated in an article, 
"Suppression of the Nobility of Titles, Arms, etc." 29 Here it is 
used as propaganda against the view that titles and other signs 
of hereditary nobility are harmless and should not be molested. 
The author, after describing the history of the Society of the 
Cincinnatus, suggested that as a result of Franklin's satirical at- 
tack the organization fell into disrepute, with its American mem- 
bers uniformly explaining their adherence as a moment of shame- 
ful weakness and only a few of its French members still wearing 
its insignia to nourish their foolish and puerile vanity. After 
these remarks, he presented the complete text of Franklin's let- 
ter with one notable divergence from the text printed by W. T. 
Franklin a divergence that expands and clarifies Franklin's 
meaning and is significant whether it is an emendation of Frank- 
lin or of the French editor. In the English text Franklin remarks 
that the project to distinguish men who have participated in the 
American Revolution by a badge or ribbon is harmless provided 
that it has no hereditary force. This badge 

will save modest Virtue the Trouble of calling for our Regard, by 
awkward roundabout Intimations of having been heretofore em- 
ploy'd in the Continental Service. 

The French version specifies that only the French volunteers are 
indicated by this passage. 

Cette distinction visible sauve au m&rite modeste rembarras d'attirer 
Tattention: et, par exemple, en France, elle dispense les gens de 
m'apprendre, toujours avec un peu de gaucherie, que je parle 
un homme employe ci-devant comme officier au service de 1'Am^- 
rique, et qui a contribue i la liberte et au bonheur de mon pays. 

The editor explains in a footnote that this passage incorporates 
a subtle irony against a swarm of young courtiers, who toward 


the end of the American Revolution wanted to follow the fash- 
ion and participate in it for at least a few months so as to receive 
military promotion, the ribbon of the Cincinnatus, and the 
favor of some weak women. Proud of their great advantage, these 
self-styled heroes visited Franklin, but instead of treating him 
with due veneration for his age and wisdom, they appeared be- 
fore him with the airs of protectors and liberators and the irri- 
tating insolent manners of the French nobility. Franklin's philo- 
sophical malice led him to retaliate in the delicate raillery of the 
above passage. 

Franklin's theories concerning a single legislature are even 
more important because their influence upon particular leaders 
in the French Revolution can be directly traced and because 
they represented virtually a single cause. Many other writers and 
statesmen condemned a hereditary aristocracy, but none but 
Franklin and his personal disciples championed a single legis- 

The first state constitution of Pennsylvania, incorporating 
Franklin's unicameral theories, was widely known and widely 
circulated in France because Franklin was thought to be the 
principal framer. A French translation, first published in Affaires 
de I'Angleterre et de I'Amtrique, in March, i777, 80 was printed 
again as a supplement to an edition of La Science du Bonhomme 
Richard, i777, 31 again in the next year in Recueil des Loix Con- 
stitutives des Colonies Anglaises?* and in 1783 in Constitutions 
des Treize Etats-Unis 33 The latter volume was reviewed August 
24 in the Journal de Paris with the remark that the translator 
was the due de La Rochefoucauld. 

It was probably from studying the constitution of Pennsylvania 
that La Rochefoucauld acquired his interest in unicameralism. 
In an address presented as a tribute to Franklin in 1790 two 
months after his death La Rochefoucauld explained his own 
adherence and his proposals for France. He visualized unicam- 
eralism as an example of Franklin's talent for discovering the 
simplest methods in mechanical operations. A single house he 
called the maximum of simplicity in political economy. 

Franklin was the first to propose to put this idea into practice; the 
respect the Pennsylvanians bore him made them adopt it, but it 
alarmed the other states, and even the constitution of Pennsylvania 


has since been changed. In Europe this opinion has had more suc- 
cess, but it required a certain amount o time. When I had the 
honor to present to Franklin the translation of the constitutions of 
America, public opinion was hardly better disposed on this side 
than on the other side o the Atlantic, and if we except Doctor 
Price in England and Turgot and Condorcet in France, nearly 
everyone who was then occupied with political ideas had a con- 
trary opinion to the American philosopher. I dare admit that I 
was one of the small number of those who were struck by the beauty 
of the simple plan which he had delineated and that I did not need 
to change my opinion when the judgment of the profound thinkers 
and eloquent orators who have treated the subject before the Na- 
tional Assembly led that body to establish as a principle of the 
French constitution that the legislation shall be entrusted to a single 
body of representatives. Perhaps I shall be forgiven for having once 
spoken of myself at a time when the honor- I have of being a 
public servant enforces upon me the duty of explaining to my fel- 
low citizens the issue of my opinions. France will not retrogress 
toward a more complicated system, and doubtless she will have the 
glory of maintaining the one she has established. 84 

Two years later, La Rochefoucauld addressed the National 
Assembly at the head of the delegation from Paris, on the subject 
of Franklin and the single legislature. 

Your most important debt perhaps is to justify your predecessors 
in the bold resolution they have taken for the nation in confiding 
the law-making authority to a single body. Franklin is the first to 
have proposed it and the citizens of Pennsylvania listened to his 
voice but since that time, the sentiment of certain inconveniences 
and, perhaps most important of all, the powerful influence of an- 
cient habits have made them return to the complications of the 
British system of government. The National Constituent Assembly 
has seized upon this great idea; it has seen, moreover, in its adop- 
tion the inestimable advantage of cementing the principles of 
equality; and the law-making power has received no other limits 
than those of the royal sanction. Messieurs, you will prove to France, 
to Europe, to the entire universe by the wisdom of your delibera- 
tions that in the moral world as in the physical the simple methods 
are always those which best and most surely produce the effect 
desired. 35 

La Rochefoucauld had his wish. The Assembly retained the uni- 
cameral system, the system, which many authorities maintain, 
permitted the excesses of the Reign of Terror. John Adams, for 
example, argued that the doctrine had been directly responsible 


for the deaths of La Rochefoucauld and of Condorcet, another 
close friend of Franklin's who espoused unicameralism. In 1809 
Adams wrote to a friend: 

In 1775 and 1776 there had been great disputes, in Congress and 
in the several States, concerning a proper constitution for the sev- 
eral States to adopt for their government. A Convention in Penn- 
sylvania had adopted a government in one representative assembly, 
and Dr. Franklin was the President of that Convention. The Doc- 
tor, when he went to France in 1776, carried with him the printed 
copy of that Constitution, and it was immediately propagated 
through France that this was the plan of government of Mr. Frank- 
lin. In truth, it was not Franklin, but Timothy Matlack, James 
Cannon, Thomas Young, and Thomas Paine, who were the authors 
of it. Mr. Turgot, the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, Mr. Condorcet, 
and many others, became enamored with the Constitution of Mr. 
Franklin. And in my opinion, the two last owed their final and 
fatal catastrophe to this blind love. 86 

James Cheetham, an American journalist who quoted Adams' 
letter in a notoriously denigratory biography of Thomas Paine, 
was also under the impression that Paine, not Franklin, was the 
author of the Pennsylvania Constitution. He remarked, there- 
fore, "Condorcet became an advocate of a single representative 
assembly. He was gratified. The convention was established, and 
it is to the uncontrouled fury and tyranny of the convention that 
his death is attributable. May not Paine's constitution of Penn- 
sylvania have been the cause of the tyranny of Robespierre?" 87 
Adams and Cheetham were in error on the subject of both Paine's 
participation and Franklin's influence. Paine, who was not a man 
to hide his light under a bushel, specifically declared that he had 
held no correspondence with the framers of the constitution, that 
he "had no hand in forming any part of it, nor knew anything 
of its contents" until he saw it published. 38 Paine is authority 
also for the anecdote that Franklin gave his opinion to the Penn- 
sylvania Convention of 1776 that a system of two houses is "like 
putting one horse before a cart and the other behind it, and 
whipping them both. If the horses are of equal strength, the 
wheels of the cart, like the wheels of government, will stand still; 
and if the horses are strong enough, the cart will be torn to 
pieces." 39 In a Pennsylvania newspaper, the Federal Gazette, No- 
vember 3, 1789, Franklin made use of a similar analogy: "the 


famous political fable of the snake, with two heads and one body. 
. . . She was going to a Brook to drink, and in her Way was to 
pass thro' a Hedge, a Twig of which opposed her direct Course; 
one Head chose to go on the right side of the Twig, the other on 
the left; so that time was spent in the Contest, and, before the 
Decision was completed, the poor Snake died with thirst/' 40 
Recent scholars have been inclined to minimize Franklin's per- 
sonal importance in the unicameralism of the Pennsylvania con- 
stitution, pointing out that in colonial times the legislature had 
only one house. 41 From his later writings, however, it is obvious 
that he was an ardent supporter of a single legislature. 

In France, friends and foes alike of the single legislature argued 
that the system was Franklin's brain-child. An author opposed to 
the French Constitution of 1793, but afraid to attack it openly, 
leveled all his criticism against the constitution of Pennsylvania, 
which he described as the model on which the French system 
had been flagrantly tailored. He drew, in an imaginary dialogue 
between himself, Samuel Adams, and Franklin, a pointed con- 
trast between the constitution of Massachusetts, founded on the 
division of the legislature, and that of Pennsylvania, founded on 
the unity of the legislature. 42 Although Franklin is the patron 
of the detested single legislature, the author treats him with re- 
spect and affection, attacking only his political views. The French 
author has allegedly toured several of the American states in the 
company of Adams, when one day on the outskirts of Boston they 
encounter Franklin. Adams confesses that he had said of the 
constitution of Pennsylvania that it would be the best in the 
world if all the citizens of the state were Franklins, adding, how- 
ever, that he is even here mistaken, since governments would be 
useless to men who know how to govern themselves. As the na- 
tion becomes more populous and riches become a stronger force 
than virtue, the republic, lacking stronger checks on individual 
freedom, will degenerate into a tyranny. Returning to the present, 
the author points out that of the thirteen states with an equal 
degree of liberty, eleven enjoy calm and tranquility "two only 
are incessantly agitated . . . Georgia and Pennsylvania, the only 
two in which the legislature is composed of a single body." 

At this point the anonymous author allows Franklin to escape 
without further criticism. "This is enough," Franklin replies to 


Adams with an angelic softness, "let us leave the glory of criti- 
cism to those who do not possess that of creation." 

By and large Franklin's political opinions were favorably re- 
ceived in the French press, with one important exception, a let- 
ter of comment on the French Revolution. In his first communi- 
cation on the subject to a French citizen, Franklin prudently 
wrote (September 5, 1789), "I make no Remarks to you concern- 
ing your Public Affairs, being too remote to form just Opinions 
concerning them." 4S Two months later he wrote to Jean Baptiste 
Le Roy, however, making some very uncomplimentary remarks 
about the Revolution. Although he probably considered his com- 
ments in part facetious, they were of a nature to give offense to a 
partisan of the social upheaval. This letter is one of the most fre- 
quently quoted in America but not because of interest in the 
French Revolution but because it contains Franklin's saying on 
death and taxes. 

It is now more than a year, since I have heard from my dear 
friend Le Roy. What can be the reason? Are you still living? Or 
have the mob of Paris mistaken the head of a monopolizer of 
knowledge, for a monopolizer of corn, and paraded it about the 
streets upon a pole. 

Great part of the news we have had from Paris, for near a year 
past, has been very afflicting. I sincerely wish and pray it may all 
end well and happy, both for the King and the nation. The voice 
of Philosophy I apprehend can hardly be heard among those 
tumults. If any thing material in that way had occurred, I am 
persuaded you would have acquainted me with it. However, pray 
let me hear from you a little oftener; for, though the distance is 
great, and the means of conveying letters not very regular, a year's 
silence between friends must needs give uneasiness. 

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance 
that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said 
to be certain, except death and taxes. 44 

It was published immediately after its receipt in the Gazette Uni- 
verselle (December 30, 1789) with the following comment: 

This letter is interesting in every sense since it tells us that the 
constitution of the United States has been completely established 
and that M. Franklin sees his country as free and happy as he could 
wish. One should also notice the date of this letter and agree that 
one could hardly expect to have fresher news from North America, 


This editor, we see, passes over Franklin's remarks on the Revo- 
lution to discuss the date of the letter, which in the Gazette Uni- 
verselle is given as November 23, but in The Private Correspond- 
ence of Benjamin Franklin, 1817, its first printing in English, is 
November 13, a significant difference of almost two weeks. 45 
Probably the letter required forty-seven rather than thirty-seven 
days to cross the ocean, but without the original manuscript we 
cannot be sure. At any rate the French editor's comments on its 
rapid publication reveal the avidity with which news of Franklin 
was awaited. 

The letter was reprinted three days later in Brissot's Le Patriote 
Frangoisbut Brissot, or his spokesman, reprimanded Franklin 
severely for his unkind remarks on the Revolution. 46 

We cannot keep from noticing that certain expressions reflect Dr. 
Franklin's long sojourn close to the court and his intimacy with 
the ministers. It was there, no doubt, that he learned to repeat 
this word populace, and to consider as distressing the news of a 
revolution which returned to a people its liberty because it was 
tinged with a little blood. It is doubtless not at all from this point 
of view that the American people regard this Revolution. They 
paid too dearly for their own liberty to be afflicted by the sacrifices 
which ours cost. 

Oddly enough only four weeks before these remarks were penned, 
Franklin himself expressed almost identical sentiments in a letter 
to David Hartley. 

The Convulsions in France are attended with some disagreeable 
Circumstances; but if by the Struggle she obtains and secures for 
the Nation its future Liberty, and a good Constitution, a few Years' 
Enjoyment of those Blessings will amply repair all the Damages 
their Acquisition may have occasioned. 47 

An anecdote, which circulated during the following year, at- 
tributes to Franklin very much the same reaction. When a num- 
ber of his visitors pestered him by inquiring whether he did 
not consider the Revolution a singular circumstance, he replied 
with his customary wit, "Why I see nothing singular in all this, 
but on the contrary, what might naturally be expected; the 
French have served an apprenticeship to Liberty in this coun- 
try, and now that they are out of their time, they have set up for 
themselves." 4S 



In Belles Lettres 


French men of letters enshrined Franklin as a literary character 
in three separate genres: fiction, poetry, and drama. In addition, 
a work of his own, The Speech of Polly Baker, which several 
French authors translated or paraphrased, helped to establish the 
legendary personality of Franklin. The French variations of this 
story may be considered a portrayal of Franklin himself in French 
letters, not because they present his physical traits or personality, 
but because they embody a complex of notions associated in 
French thought with Franklin and with America. The French 
who accepted Polly Baker as a model of feminine reason strayed 
as far from reality as those who accepted Father Abraham as a 
depiction of Franklin's own primitivistic virtues. 

The Speech of Polly Baker is Franklin's most famous literary 
hoax. His success in mystifying authors of three nations gave rise 
to Balzac's phrase, "Le canard est une trouvaille de Franklin, qui 
a invent^ le paratonnerre, le canard, et la r^publique." * Frank- 
lin's French contemporaries, however, who by and large were 
not aware of his literary pranks, would have been more likely 
to declare him a master in the art of morality rather than in the 
art of the literary hoax. 

Modern readers are familiar with the account of the discom- 
fiture of the Abb Raynal on learning from Franklin's mouth 
that the story of Polly Baker was a hoax. Having incorporated it 
as an authentic incident in his Histoire philosophique et poli- 
tique des , . . deux Indes, 1770,* Raynal had been ridiculed for 
his gullibility by Silas Deane, Franklin's fellow commissioner at 
the Court of Louis XVL The locus classicus for this anecdote is 
a communication by Thomas Jefferson in 18 18, 8 though a ver- 
sion by Jefferson's friend and fellow Virginian, Phillipi Mazzei, 
antedates Jefferson's by thirty years. 

Toward the end of 1777 or the beginning of 1778, the abbe" Ray- 
nal going one evening to visit Doctor Franklin, found Silas Deane 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 245. 



at Franklin's home. "We were just speaking of your work/' Deane 
remarked, "and we said that you had been poorly served by those 
who gave you information concerning America, and particularly 
my country." 

As the abbe did not wish to admit the fact, Deane cited several 
passages in which there was not a word of truth. Finally, they came 
to speak of the tale of Polly Baker. This subject brought on the 
most serious controversy since the abbe maintained that he had 
taken it from an authentic document. Dr. Franklin, after enjoying 
himself listening to the debate for a time, broke the silence and 
addressed himself to the abbe. "I am going to set you straight," he 
said. "When I was young and printed a newspaper, it sometimes 
happened that when I was short of material that I would amuse 
myself by making up stories and that of Polly Baker is one of the 

"My word," replied the abb Raynal, giving up the dispute, "I am 
more pleased to have included your tales in my work than the 
truths of others." 

This anecdote appears in Mazzei's Recherches historiques et 
politiques sur les Etats-Unis, 1788, a work of four volumes, of 
which the entire third volume is given over to a refutation of 
Raynal's remarks on the United States. 4 Mazzei gives no indica- 
tion of his source for the anecdote; whereas Jefferson says that 
his version was communicated verbally by Franklin himself. Al- 
though it is possible that Mazzei obtained the story from Jeffer- 
son, it is just as likely that he drew it from one of the originals 
involved in the incident. A third possibility is that the conver- 
sation never took place at all, but is merely the substance of a 
good anecdote a hoax by Mazzei or someone who told the tale 
to him. Jefferson may have read Mazzei's account of the episode, 
may have later forgotten the source, and then in 1818 may have 
thought he had heard it directly from Franklin. 

Scholarship on the affair has been complicated by the fact that 
it has been affirmed and accepted that Voltaire pointed out in 
1774 in Questions sur I 3 Encyclopedic that the story of Polly Baker 
was "une plaisanterie, un pamphlet de 1'illustre Franklin." 5 In 
truth this passage does not appear in the 1774 edition of Ques- 
tions sur I' Encyclopedic nor in any other edition published dur- 
ing Voltaire's lifetime. It appeared for the first time in the Kehl 
edition of Voltaire's works in 1784, and one cannot be absolutely 
certain that it is by Voltaire himself. 6 Even so, we must add, this 


is still the earliest known attribution of the piece to Franklin. 

It makes little difference whether or not Raynal knew of 
Franklin's connection with Polly's speech; the important con- 
sideration is the use he made of it in his own work. Although 
one cannot be sure of his motives, Franklin probably told the 
story of Polly Baker for the sake of the humor in certain passages, 
a humor so refined and subtle that he probably felt a personal 
satisfaction in the hope that gullible persons would not perceive 
his levity but would accept the entire narrative as true. The only 
serious theme in the story is that which I shall refer to as philopro- 
genitiveness the typically eighteenth-century fondness for fecun- 
dity and procreation as such. Franklin throughout his life, both 
humorously and seriously, in bagatelles, in works on economic 
theory, in personal letters, and in practice consistently stressed 
the value of an augmented population. Raynal, however, is only 
incidentally concerned with procreation. On the surface he uses 
the speech of Polly Baker to illustrate the harsh laws of the New 
England colonies, an example of the rigorous morality of puri- 
tanism, but his version of the story has little more to do with this 
theme than it has to do with Franklin's philoprogenitiveness. The 
fact is that Raynal's text is not a literal translation of Franklin's 
but a very loose paraphrase with fundamental alterations and ad- 
ditions designed to inculcate principles of deism and feminine 
equalitarianism concepts completely nonexistent in Franklin's 
original. Not only does Raynal take liberties with Franklin's text, 
he is not even true to his own. His text of Polly Baker in the 
revised 1774 edition of the Histoire philosophique eliminates an 
important passage found in the 1770 text and presents several 
sections of the speech in a reverse order. 

In Franklin's original, the three most forceful passages, strate- 
gically placed in the second quarter, the middle, and the very 
end of the speech, defend the principle of procreation at any cost. 
"Can it be a crime (in the nature of things, I mean)," Polly asks 
rhetorically, "to add to the king's subjects, in a new country, that 
really wants people? I own, I should think it rather a praiseworthy 
than a punishable action." T Appealing to the religious convictions 
of her judges, she argues that heaven is not angry at her having 
children since "to the little done by me towards it, God has been 
pleased to add his divine skill and admirable workmanship in the 


formation of their bodies, and crowned the whole by furnishing 
them with rational and immortal souls." Finally, she appeals to 
"the first and great command of nature and nature's God, encrease 
and multiply; a duty from the steady performance of which noth- 
ing has been able to deter me." 

Raynal loosely translates the first two of these passages, and 
in the last passage shifts the emphasis from the duty of augment- 
ing population to the pleasure in the sexual act itself. Considering 
the human male almost an opponent or enemy of the female, 
Raynal's Polly complains of masculine injustice in condemning 
the female partner from whom the male derives pleasure and 
companionship. "Let him not crush with opprobrium a sex which 
he has himself corrupted; let him not infuse shame and misery 
into the pleasure which thou hast given him as the consolation 
of his affliction; let him not be ungrateful and cruel to the very 
seat of happiness in delivering to torture the victim of his vo- 
luptuousness." This sentimental feminism is completely alien to 

Raynal actually adds to the narrative more elements than he 
adopts from the original. Of the other high points in Franklin's 
version, Raynal repeats only his humorous reflections on the 
cupidity of lawyers and ministers (the only members of the com- 
munity with a legitimate grievance against Polly because she has 
perhaps deprived them of a fee) and his serious advocacy of the 
separation of civil and religious powers. "If mine is a religious 
offense," Polly declaims, "leave it to religious punishments." 
Raynal was apparently indifferent to Polly's argument that bache- 
lors who fail to marry and produce offspring out of fear of the 
expense of domestic life are guilty of a far greater crime than 
her own. She advocates that they be legally compelled either to 
marry or to pay double the fine of fornication every year. This 
scheme, rather widely advocated a$ a serious economic and po- 
litical measure in England during the eighteenth century, Raynal 
included in his 1770 translation but dropped from his revised 
version in 1774, indicating that he cared little more for Frank- 
lin's economics than for his philoprogenitiveness. Rationalistic re- 
ligion and sociological perfectibility, primary themes of his ten- 
volume history, are also the chief themes of his version of Polly 


By and large Raynal transforms Franklin's sprightly discourse 
into a deistical homily; the humor of the original is either over- 
looked or subordinated to deistical presuppositions. In her in- 
troductory remarks, for example, RaynaFs Polly independently 
acknowledges reason as her guide and arbiter. "I am going to 
make Reason speak. As she alone has the right to dictate the 
laws, she can examine them all." In speaking of the education 
she has given to her illegitimate offspring, an extension of the 
situation that had not occurred to Franklin, she again praises 
reason as her moving principle. "I have formed them to virtue, 
which is merely reason. They already love their country as I do. 
They will be citizens as yourselves unless you take away from 
them by new fines the basis of their maintenance and force them 
to flee a region which has spurned them from the cradle." 

Franklin's Polly complains of the severity of the laws, but 
argues merely that their rigidity should sometimes be relaxed in 
particular circumstances, that "there is left a power somewhere 
to dispense with the execution of them." RaynaTs Polly un- 
equivocally sets forth the Rousseauistic precept of the supremacy 
of conscience over law. "I defy my enemies, if I have any which 
I have not merited, to accuse me of the least injustice. I examine 
my conscience and my conduct; the one and the other, I say it 
boldly, both appear pure as the day which gives me light, and 
when I look for my crime, I find it only in the law." 

Franklin was a lover and friend of the female sex, but in none 
of his works does he appear as an outspoken feminist like Con- 
dorcet, Godwin, or Mary Wollstonecraft. Certainly his Polly 
Baker does not suggest that the female sex itself is discriminated 
against in human institutions, nor does he present the male sex 
as the persecutor of the female. Raynal's Polly, on the other hand, 
does exactly this in a forthright denunciation of the double stand- 
ard in sexual relations, "Who was the barbarous legislator, who 
pronouncing on the two sexes, favored the stronger and raged 
against the weaker against this unfortunate sex which for a sin- 
gle brief pleasure must reckon with a thousand dangers and a 
thousand infirmities against this sex to whom nature sells at a 
price capable of appalling the wildest passions these pleasures 
which she gives to you so freely." 

Franklin's Polly is not a prude in sexual matters; yet she justifies 


her cohabitation solely on the grounds of procreation. RaynaTs 
Polly frankly admits strong sexual urges and, perhaps because 
of her Gallic provenance, justifies them as part of the nature of 
things. "In order not to betray nature, I do not fear to expose 
myself to unjust dishonor, to shameful punishments. I should pre- 
fer to suffer everything than to forswear the vows of propaga- 
tion, than to suppress my children either before or after con- 
ceiving them. I have not been able, I admit it, after losing my 
virginity, to remain celibate in a secret and sterile prostitution, 
and I ask for the punishment which awaits me rather than to 
hide the fruits of the fecundity which heaven has given to man 
and woman as its principal benediction." 

Raynal's alterations are not limited to the intellectual content 
of the original text; they embrace also a fundamental change in 
the integral form or structure of the narrative. Where Franklin's 
original piece consists entirely of Polly's speech directed to her 
judges and accusers, Raynal's version contains an additional dra- 
matic peroration addressed to the divine being himself. After re- 
peating Franklin's argument that God could not be angry at her 
deed since he had endowed her progeny with an immortal soul, 
she turns from her accuser to address God directly. 

God, just and good; God, corrector of evils and injustices, it is to 
thee to whom I appeal the sentence of my judges; do not avenge 
me; do not punish them, but condescend to enlighten and to soften 
them. If thou hast given woman to man as companion on this earth 
covered with thorns, let him not crush with opprobrium a sex which 
he has himself corrupted; let him not infuse shame and misery into 
the pleasure which thou hast given him as the consolation of his 
affliction; let him not be ungrateful and cruel to the very seat of 
happiness in delivering to torture the victim of his voluptuousness. 
Make him respect in his desires the modesty which he honors, or 
after having violated it in his pleasures make him pity it at least 
instead of injuring it. Or let him not convert to crimes the actions 
which thou hast permitted or commanded when thou commanded 
his race to increase and multiply. 

This enterprising young lady may bear the name Polly Baker, 
but she is certainly not the character Franklin created. 

Some of Polly's deistical philosophy may have been inspired 
by Diderot, for, according to Anacharsis Cloots, Thomas Paine's 
colleague in the French National Convention, "All the great 


tirades against superstition and despotism which have made the 
fortune of the Histoire philosophique and which one can estimate 
at four volumes are the work of Diderot." 8 La Harpe in his 
Correspondence litteraire also attributes to Diderot responsibility 
for a large share of the philosophy of Raynal's work. 9 Raynal's 
original translation in 1770 is probably his own work, however, 
since Diderot used an entirely different translation as a feature 
of his Supplement au voyage de Bougainville written subse- 
quently to the Histoire philosophique and published for the first 
time in i7g6. 10 But as Raynal's revisions seem consistently to bring 
the Polly of the Histoire philosophique more in line with Diderot's 
version, it has been suggested that Diderot had some hand in the 
subsequent version of the story, if not actually in that of the 1770 
edition. 11 Notable divergences in Diderot's translation from Frank- 
lin's text include suppression of the accusation that failing to 
have children is a crime of the same nature as assassination, of 
the proposal to tax bachelors, and of Polly's claim to have de- 
served a monument for her procreating activities. Added is a 
denunciation of unmarried men who seduce virtuous women and 
start them on the road to prostitution. 

Raynal may have had his own motives esthetic or intellectual 
for changing his interpretation of Polly Baker, or he may have 
been under Diderot's influence. There would seem to be some 
significance in the fact that in addition to reversing the order of 
events in the narrative (the address to the divinity being shifted 
from a position near the middle of the speech to the very end), 
Raynal omitted four consecutive sentences from his previous text, 
sentences embodying exactly the same concepts that Diderot omits 
from his translation. This may show direct influence or it may 
be entirely coincidental. It may be said against the theory of 
Diderot's influence that the 1774 version is much less deistical 
than that of 1770. Since Diderot is usually considered to be re- 
sponsible for the bold philosophical touches in the Histoire 
philosophique ', it is inconsistent to portray him as leading Raynal 
away from deism. 

The 1780 edition, last to appear during Raynal's lifetime, has 
a further change not made in any earlier edition, which seems 
definitely attributable to Diderot. The last sentence of the speech 
incorporates a phrase from the subtitle of the Supplement au 


voyage de Bougainville, an addition that gives the speech an em- 
phasis entirely different from that of the previous versions. The 
subtitle of Diderot's work, "Dialogue entre A. et B. sur 1'incon- 
venient d'attacher des ides morales i certaines actions physiques 
qui n'en comportent pas," seems to have little bearing on the 
speech of Polly Baker. As we have seen, Raynal used the nar- 
rative, ostensibly to condemn the rigorous moral harshness of 
puritanism, but actually to promote deism and feminine equali- 
tarianism. Yet he concluded his 1780 version with the phrase, 
"ce discours, qu'on entendroit souvent dans nos contres & par- 
tout ou Ton a attache des idees morales a des actions physiques 
qui n'en comportent point. . . ." 

Nothing that goes beyond the realm of conjecture can be said 
about Diderot's influence. The most important conclusion to be 
drawn from both authors' treatment of Polly Baker is that the 
narrative was used to present concepts even more extensive than 
the wide variety already woven into it by Franklin. 

Those critics who are aware that the original publication of 
Franklin's Polly Baker hoax has still not been located (that the 
earliest versions now known appeared concurrently in the Lon- 
don Magazine and Gentleman's Magazine in April, 1747) might 
argue that perhaps RaynaTs translation goes back to the original 
version. Or it might be contended also that Raynal copied his 
version from some other previous French translation. Both hy- 
potheses are unlikely. Raynal certainly had no firsthand access 
to colonial American newspapers, and other French translations 
of the Polly Baker speech follow closely the version in the Gen- 
tleman's Magazine. One of these in the gazette, Le Courrier de 
I' Europe, 1777, is almost a literal translation except that the 
heroine's name is changed to Marie Baker. 12 Another translation, 
published by Brissot de Warville in his Bibliotheque philoso- 
phique du legislature, 1782, as an example of one of the world's 
best discourses on criminal legislation, is somewhat shortened, but 
otherwise almost a literal translation. 13 

As we have already seen, both Raynal and Diderot eliminate 
from their texts of Polly Baker the peroration in which she main- 
tains that she has actually merited reward instead of punishment. 
Franklin's Polly appeals to "the duty of the first and great com- 
mand of nature and nature's God. ... For its sake I have haz- 


arded the loss of publick esteem, and have frequently endured 
publick disgrace and punishment; and therefore ought, in my 
humble opinion, instead of a whipping to have a statue erected 
to my memory." Professor Chinard believes that the exaggeration 
implicit in this self-vindication should have put the translators 
on guard. 14 Both Brissot and the translator in the Courrier de 
I'Europe, however, gave this passage in full without apparently 
being any the wiser. It is not surprising that they should have 
been deceived. Even in America the story continued to be pub- 
lished and accepted as an actual occurrence as late as 1813. 

In the same year the story reappeared in France as an example 
of the progress in human relations wrought by the American 
Revolution. In a collection of anecdotes concerning Anglo-Amer- 
ican relations, the speech is said to have been delivered in 1775 
just at the moment when the royal courts had been replaced by 
native judges chosen by the people. 15 Until this moment maids 
accused of violating sexual codes had not dared to speak out but 
had accepted their punishment as inevitable destiny. Polly was 
the first with the courage to condemn the law. This she did "with 
a modesty which gave added force to her protests and added clat 
to her innocence. All America was moved to pity for her situa- 
tion. In Europe all other concerns were momentarily suspended 
by the sensation which this story created. All recitals of brigand- 
age and murders were interrupted in the gazettes of the time in 
order to give place to the discourse which an unknown creature, 
feeble and unfortunate, had delivered in her own defense." 

After this introduction, notable as much for exaggeration as 
for anachronism, the editor strangely enough prints Mazzei's ac- 
count of the source of the speech and adds his own interpreta- 
tion of its significance as a moral tale: "how a simple woman, 
without other guide than nature, can display reason, courage and 
eloquence, and despite involuntary errors, may succeed in be- 
coming a good mother and attaining the respect of the commu- 
nity." In contrast he presents another tale, illustrating the dangers 
of an education too refined, a tale of the spoiled daughter of 
a wealthy English man of affairs, who has learned little but im- 
pertinence and affectation at boarding school. 

So successful has been Franklin's hoax that even in modern 
times scholars have been taken in by it. John Morley, the emi- 


nent English critic of Diderot, in discussing the influence of the 
great encyclopaedist on Raynal, remarked that Polly Baker seems 
to have been written "in the vein and almost the words of 
Diderot." 16 Later scholarly works in German and in Swedish 
have repeated the view that the narrative of Polly Baker is en- 
tirely a product of the eloquence of Diderot, the only contri- 
bution of Franklin having been the bare situation. Actually, 
as we have seen, Diderot's version is virtually a literal trans- 
lation except for a few excisions. Raynal's version, which goes 
to the other extreme of elaboration and rhetorical sensationalism, 
is much further from Franklin's original. 

Raynal, viewing his version as an example of the sublime power 
of natural reason, probably felt justified in changing Franklin's 
emphasis. His alterations, which he undoubtedly considered im- 
provements, were designed to demonstrate how much "the voice 
of reason is above the prestige of a studied eloquence/' Of the 
application of this principle to Polly Baker, Mazzei tartly ob- 
served, "he does too much honor to the talents of our poor 
American maidens in supposing that they speak as Dr. Franklin 
writes. If eloquence consists in declamation, it is certain that this 
discourse is anything but a morsel of eloquence; but if it consists 
in the force of reason, in the choice of expressions, in precision 
etc., in this case I dare assert that it is." 17 Whatever may be said 
of Franklin's original, it is obvious that the voice of reason has 
very little in common with the rhetorical eloquence of Raynal's 
Polly Baker. 


We have hitherto discussed the reception in France of Franklin's 
various literary works and the consideration accorded to certain 
of his opinions. We now tum to those French authors who used 
Franklin as a subject for original literary productions, in other 
words, those who perpetuated the Franklin legend. As has been 
noted, Franklin was celebrated in three primary categories, fic- 
Notes to tfirs chapter begin on page 245. 


tion, poetry, and drama. To these might be added formal eulogies 
and collections of anecdotes, souvenirs, and scandal although the 
latter groups present Franklin primarily as a human being rather 
than as a legendary figure. 

In his first fictional representation, Franklin appears in the role 
of scientist rather than statesman. Because of his friendship for 
Dr. Dubourg and Dr. Vicq d'Azyr, Franklin became embroiled 
in a heated dispute between the Faculte de Medecine and the 
newly-formed Soctete Royale de Medecine. Franklin appears to 
have taken no active part in the actual controversy in which 
Dubourg was one of the primary figures. For Dubourg, conten- 
tion between rival medical societies was nothing new. Early in 
his career when the School of Surgery was hotly embattled against 
the Faculty of Medicine, Dubourg wrote two pamphlets ardently 
defending the latter, one in 1743, the other in 1744. 1 As an out- 
come of his determined support, he was admitted in 1748 as 
doctor of the faculty, and he became known as one of the most 
zealous advocates of that body. The Faculty remained the most 
distinguished medical organization in France until the Royal 
Society of Medicine was established, and, as Dubourg was pained 
to see, dissension developed between the two organizations over 
their respective functions. The members of the Faculty were 
apparently resentful of the prestige accorded to the new society, 
which admitted many foreigners and excluded prominent mem- 
bers of the Faculty. In 1778 a partisan of the Faculty, Le Roux 
des Tillets, let loose a vitriolic attack on the Royal Society, ridi- 
culing its best-known members. At about the same time Dubourg 
published a Lettre d'un Medecin de la Faculte, ostensibly defend- 
ing the other side, but actually attempting to mediate between 
the two groups in proposing an arrangement whereby one group 
would specialize in medical theory, the other in practice. 

In the satire of Le Roux against the Royal Society, Fianklin 
plays the principal role. The work, entitled Dialogue entre 
Pasquin 6- Marforio, is a series of symbolic allegorical descrip- 
tions rather than a dramatic dialogue, 2 in a setting that is, appro- 
priately enough, the residence of the Secretary of the Society, 
Vicq d'Azyr, where the earliest gatherings had been held before 
Louis XVI had granted a meeting place at the Louvre. Pasquin, 
wishing to become a doctor, visits the Royal Society and discovers 


that the reception hall is adorned with an emblematic painting 
on each side and an altar at the far end. One of the paintings 
represents the young king extending his benevolent patronage 
toward medicine, personified as stretching a hand toward suffer- 
ing humanity; on the opposite side are depicted courageous sci- 
entists, who expose themselves to disease in order to save their 
fellow men and even the lower animals from death. The altar 
at the rear is hidden by a symbolic representation of sound doc- 
trine, the destruction of charlatanism, and the advance of medical 
knowledge an emblem that the reader is expected to identify 
with the Faculty. 

Franklin, playing the role of a wise magician, now appears on 
the scene to dispel false illusions and to portray the truth con- 
cerning the medical profession. Seated on a throne of ivory in 
his customary guise of a respectable old man, he is supported 
by Science and Virtue trampling chained leopards underfoot. On 
his forehead, encompassed by a halo of light, is figured the single 
word Liberty. 

This vision gives place to a series of satirical emblems por- 
traying the members of the Royal Society on the basis of scan- 
dalous anecdotes of their lives. The curtain is raised, revealing 
a large wooden idol surrounded by allegorical symbols such as 
ambition, artifice, favoritism, authority, ingratitude, intrigue, 
self-interest, and calumny. This idol, the reader is expected to 
identify with the Royal Society. 

Vicq d'Azyr then pronounces a discourse summarizing the 
successful efforts of the Society in having labeled the Faculty as 
rebellious and imprudent for wishing to retain its privileges. He 
calls upon his auditors to renew their efforts to have the meetings 
o the Faculty forbidden, to have its decrees suspended, and to 
prevent the establishment of its committee of doctrine. Finally, 
he exhorts his colleagues to exterminate their enemies in order 
to fit themselves to sacrifice at the altar of medicine. 

At this moment Franklin intervenes; amid peals of thunder, 
the altar is shaken and the idol overturned. Franklin with his 
magic wand transforms each member of the society into an ani- 
mal analogous to his character. 

Of this curious apocalypse, we might inquire as did the 
Memoires secrets (February 13, 1779) why Franklin was cast in 


the principal role. It may be, as the editors suggested, because 
he was both scientist and republican and, therefore, in theory 
opposed to the privileged exclusiveness of the Royal Society. 
More likely, the author, seeing in Franklin a symbol of scientific 
boldness and moral integrity, felt that his cause would be ad- 
vanced if he were to associate Franklin with it, correctly or in- 
correctly. From the standpoint of propaganda, Le Roux was prob- 
ably indifferent to the fact that a few months later Franklin ac- 
cepted membership in the Royal Society. The members of the 
Faculty, however, probably felt a certain chagrin. According to 
the Memoir es secrets (June 7, 1779) they lamented grievously 
when Dubourg, too, went over to the rival Society a defection 
they considered the more shameful since he had previously been 
one of its most outspoken opponents. One wonders whether 
Franklin had any influence upon his change of attitude. 

Although in the Dialogue Franklin was required to play a 
somewhat ambiguous pan, he was still treated with respect; in 
other works of fiction, particularly those with political overtones, 
he was sometimes made to look ridiculous, A licentious piece of 
scandal entitled Le Vicomte de Barjac, 1784 s (attributed to the 
Marquis de Luchet), for example, calls him "a very poor states- 
man," "a mediocre physician," and "a driveller." Perhaps the 
most ludicrous description of Franklin in any literature is an 
account of his dining at the home of a noble lady in the spurious 
Memoires de la Marquise de CrequyS These alleged memoirs, 
although not published until the nineteenth century, were prob- 
ably written by a contemporary or near-contemporary of Frank- 
lin, and while the information they contain is not literally exact, 
every word is written with an eye to verisimilitude. Among the 
varied contents are two very interesting anecdotes of Franklin, 
one concerning his religious opinions, the other concerning his 
table manners. The first, presumed to have been communicated 
by the abb Galiani, reports that when Franklin and d'Alembert 
were one day together at the home of Mme. Necker, "D'Alenibert 
began to cry out with his voice of an Abyssinian eunuch that 
the reign of Christianity was at an end. Franklin replied that the 
revolution which menaced the world was, on the contrary, the 
application of primitive Christianity a state of affairs which 
would inevitably come to pass after a half century of infidelity. 


This American maintained that the return to primitive institu- 
tions would have deplorable results and that he had great fear 
of the anabaptists." 5 Although this encounter itself is purely 
imaginary, Franklin held religious opinions very close to the 
view here attributed to him. 

The second anecdote, presumed to be from the Marquise de 
Crequy herself, is an account of the only time she saw Franklin 
at a dinner given by Madame de Tesse, who had amused herself 
at her friend's expense by placing her without warning next to 
Franklin. The Marquise decided to turn the tables on the com- 
pany by refusing to address a single word to her companion. But 
even without this malicious decision, she adds, she would not 
have known what to say to the erstwhile printer at her side. 

He had long hair like a diocesan o Quimper; he had a brown 
habit, brown coat, and breeches of the same cloth and hands of the 
same color; he had a cravate striped with red. What I noticed as 
most remarkable about him was his method of preparing fresh eggs. 
This consists in emptying them into his glass, adding butter with 
salt, pepper and mustard. He uses five or six to prepare this pretty 
Philadelphia stew, which he consumes in small spoonfuls. You 
should know also that he does not use a spoon and that he cuts 
with a knife the morsels of food he wishes to eat. He bites into the 
asparagus instead of cutting off the tips with his knife on the plate 
and eating them properly with his fork. You see that he was a kind 
of savage. But, nevertheless, my friend, as each people has its in- 
stitutions, its climate, its foods, its habits and its own customs, each 
nation must have its moral delicacies and its physical crudities, 
with the refinements of politeness that are peculiar to it and 
habitual negligencies that another does not have. What made me 
pay attention to the actions and behavior of this American philos- 
opher was the ennui of hearing him spoken of as a social paragon 
and a marvel of cosmopolitan civilization. 

Even though the real Marquise de Crequy had nothing to do 
with this passage, it must be remembered that somebody in 
France wrote it and had this unfavorable opinion of Franklin. 
It is a far cry indeed from the blandishments of his actual friends 
Mmes. Brillon and Helv^tius. The satire may not be softened 
by the explanation that the author was indulging political or 
social prejudices. The Memoires had no propaganda purpose; 
they are nothing more profound than a literary hoax designed 
to exploit the scandal and rich personalities of the period. 


This fictitious account of Franklin at dinner may be balanced 
by the actual impressions of the Duke of Croy, who was an in- 
vited guest at Franklin's apartment in Passy, March i, 1779. 

I ate a frugal dinner, which consisted of a single service at a time 
and no soup. I found, among others, two dishes of hot fish, an ex- 
cellent pudding, and pastry for dessert. At the table were two young 
men, one of whom was his grandson (still in boarding school) and 
the other a taciturn Englishman. Franklin was recovering from an 
attack of gout, for which he had been taking baths. He was changed 
and weakened and going into a decline. As he ate only this single 
meal every day, he ate large slices of cold meat and drank two or 
three bumpers of good wine. He was tranquil and spoke little. 
Everything in his surroundings reflected simplicity and economy. 
The domestic staff consisted of three persons. 6 

Elkanah Watson, an ingenuous fellow American invited to a 
formal dinner in the same year amid the same surroundings, 
felt that Franklin's domestic establishment breathed grace and 

At the hour of dinner he conducted me, across a spacious garden of 
several acres, to the princely residence of M. Le Ray de Ghaumont. 
. . . We entered a spacious room; I following the Doctor, where 
several well-dressed persons (to my unsophisticated eyes, gentlemen) 
bowed to us profoundly. These were servants. A folding-door 
opened at our approach, and presented to my view a brilliant as- 
sembly, who all greeted the wise old man, in the most cordial and 
affectionate manner. He introduced me as a young American, just 
arrived. One of the young ladies approached him with the familiar- 
ity o a daughter, tapped him kindly on the cheek, and called him 
"Papa Franklin." I was enraptured, with the ease and freedom ex- 
hibited in the table intercourse in France. . . . Some were waltz- 
ing; and others gathered in little groups in conversation. At the 
table, the ladies and gentlemen were joined together, and joined in 
cheerful conversation, each selecting the delicacies of various courses, 
and drinking of delicious light wines, but with neither toasts nor 
healths. 7 

Another collection of eighteenth-century memoirs partly au- 
thentic, partly fictitious presenting an inaccurate portrayal of 
one phase of Franklin's official career in France, is the colorful 
Life of Baron Frederic Trench, published originally in German 
in 1786-1787. Franklin in a letter to his sister (December 17, 
1789) affirmed that 


what he says, as having past in France, between the Ministers of 
that Country, himself 8c me ... is founded on Falsehood. ... I 
never saw in that Country, nor ever knew or heard of him, any 
where *till I met with the mentioned History in Print, in the Ger- 
man Language, in which he ventured to relate it as a Fact, that I 
had with those Ministers solicited him to enter into the American 
Service. A Translation of that Book into French has since been 
printed, but the translator has omitted that pretended Fact, prob- 
ably from an Apprehension that its being, in that Country, known 
not to be true, might hurt the Credit 8c Sale of the Translation. 8 

Shortly after Franklin's death, one of his French acquaintances, 
St. John de Cr&vecoeur, reported in a book of travels three in- 
terviews with Franklin that never took place, probably in order 
to shine in the reflected glory of Franklin's reputation and to 
ensure a favorable reception for Le Voyage dans la Haute Pen- 
sylvanie et dans I'etat de New York, i8oi. 9 In one passage Frank- 
lin explains to Crevecoeur the effects of the northwest winter 
winds on the eastern states; in another he discourses on the 
Gulf Stream. The former passage is actually a reworking of ma- 
terials from Jonathan Carver's Travels, 1796, and the latter is 
a paraphrase of Franklin's own Maritime Observations, 1785. In 
the third passage, Crevecoeur describes a journey he allegedly 
made in Franklin's company to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1787 
to attend the dedication of Franklin College. As part of the cere- 
monies Franklin is supposed to have delivered an address on 
the origins of the North American Indians and on some newly- 
discovered Indian antiquities. Franklin College actually was dedi- 
cated at this timeindeed Franklin sent the abb Morellet a 
pamphlet describing the ceremonies that the latter translated for 
the M ercure de France but Franklin himself did not attend the 
ceremonies nor did he, of course, deliver a speech. At the time 
he and Cr&vecoeur were supposedly in Lancaster, Franklin was 
attending to his official duties in Philadelphia, and Crevecoeur 
was on a ship en route from France to America. The materials 
for Franklin's speech Crfevecoeur drew mainly from Gilbert Im- 
lay's A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of 
North America, 1792. The entire episode is fictitious, although 
highly plausible. Crevecoeur's imaginary interviews were pre- 
sented so convincingly that a number of Franklin's early biogia- 
phers took them as genuine. 


Most French anecdotes concerning Franklin appropriately 
limited themselves to his sojourn in France. Those, like Creve- 
coeur's, which take Franklin's life in America for their province, 
are rare and usually based on imagination rather than fact. One 
of the most fantastic of these presents him as the editor of the 
Pennsylvania Gazette at the same period of his life when Rush, 
Hancock, and Washington were among his friends. 10 According 
to this tale, some time after Franklin had established his news- 
paper, a subscriber objected to the vivacity with which he de- 
fended American interests and thereupon cancelled his subscrip- 
tion. Franklin expressed his regrets and some weeks later in- 
vited him to dinner. The erstwhile subscriber was ushered into 
a small apartment, modestly furnished, but extremely neat. A 
servant placed on a white cloth some cucumbers, a lettuce, a 
dish of leeks, a jug of water, a pitcher of small beer, some butter 
and some cheese. This was the entire supper. Soon after, Rush, 
Hancock, and Washington entered and regaled themselves with 
good humor and merriment at the humble table until midnight. 
The next day the invited guest thanked Franklin warmly for the 
lesson he had been given, remarking, "A man who can invite 
the principal citizens of the community to share a dish of cu- 
cumbers and lettuce can do nothing but honestly follow his po- 
litical principles." The story is apocryphal, but the ingredients 
are traditional in both France and America: Franklin's thrift, 
his integrity, and his practical diplomacy. 

A similar story circulated in America perhaps the true one 
and the source of the legendary account. 11 Early in his journal- 
istic career a number of Franklin's friends grew alarmed at the 
freedom and force with which he had been treating in the 
Gazette "some of the men & measures of the day, which no one 
ever before had the moral courage thus to put to the bar of 
public inquiry. This produced a political concussion in the 
primitive country not less startling than the shocks which were 
afterwards imparted by his original experiment with the electrick 
fluid." When his well-meaning friends suggested greater modera- 
tion, Franklin invited them to dinner at which his wife served 
nothing but pudding and water. After they had all concluded 
their meagre fare, Franklin thanked them for their advice, but 
explained that "he who can subsist upon saw dust pudding & 


water, as can Benjamin Franklin, needs not the patronage of 
any one." 

In several works of pure fiction Franklin is portrayed in a 
ridiculous light. Most obvious of the satires against French par- 
ticipation in the American Revolution is a British production 
by William Playfair, Joseph and Benjamin, a conversation. Trans- 
lated from a French manuscript, London, 1787. The claim that 
it is translated from a French document the only reason for 
mentioning the work here is completely devoid of foundation, 
even though the book, consisting of an imaginary conversation 
on economic theory between Franklin and the Emperor of Aus- 
tria, is said to be a genuine record. A similar work, attributed to 
Richard Tickell, La cassette verte de Monsieur de Sartine, 1777, 
may be either French or British in origin; texts of so-called fifth 
and sixth editions in French exist, but there may never have 
been any prior editions. Chief target of this satire is the tremen- 
dous amount of money given to Franklin for the American Revo- 
lution. The title refers to the reputed repository of Sartine's 
private papers that the editor ransacks while the hero is engaged 
in making love to Mile, du Th. The papers, all extremely ludi- 
crous, emphasize the inconsistency of an alliance between the 
French monarchy and the American republic. Franklin is por- 
trayed as a highly-skilled confidence man. An anonymous pam- 
phlet attacking Vergennes in 1788 says of La cassette verte, "In 
it all is not true, all is not false. One may find therein an account 
of the profits and losses of Messrs, de Sartine, Vergennes & Frank- 
lin, which gave place at the time to many conjectures." 12 

A work in similar vein by an anonymous French isolationist 
satirizes not only America and England, but also Spain and Hol- 
land and, to a certain extent, even France. Although the main 
target of personal satire is the American naval hero, John Paul 
Jones, Franklin plays the secondary role, as revealed by the title: 
Paul-Jones, on propheties sur I'Amerique, I'Angleterre, la France, 
I'Espagne, la Hollande, 6r. per Paul-Jones, Corsaire, Prophete fr 
Sorcier comme il n'en fut jamais. Y joint le reve d'un Suisse sur 
la revolution de I'Amerique, dedie a son excellence M ffneur I'Am- 
bassadeur Franklin. . . . De I'ere de I'independance de I'Ame- 
rique Van V. The main work, a pretended prophecy delivered by 


Jones under the inspiration of the Grand Tonnant (a title ap- 
parently devoid of symbolic meaning) is a parody of Biblical 
language, particularly the Old Testament prophets, the Song of 
Solomon, and the Apocalypse. The satire on the political ambi- 
tions of the United States is much more amusing than the rather 
ambiguous dedication to Franklin. It is prophesied of America, 
for example: 

Thou wilt become a power, one such as has never before existed. 
Thou wilt harass all the emperors and all the kings, all the sultans 
and caesars of the earth. The Pope himself mayhap will go one day 
to Boston to kiss thy slippers. 

Personified as a lover, America receives the following address: 

Thou art like a young maiden who has fled thy paternal abode 
since thy Papa and thy Mama do not grant thee all thy whims. 

The dedication to Franklin, composed by a supposed match- 
dealer (representing Switzerland), asks Franklin to deliver a 
letter to Congress proposing a treaty of commerce advantageous 
to both and concluding with the capital intelligence that in addi- 
tion to the vital match trade, the writer could promise that of 
Swiss cheese, which is excellent in soup. 

The most detailed satirical portrait of Franklin in France ap- 
pears in a colorful collection of scandal, Histoire d'un pou fran- 
gois; ou I'espion d'une nouvelle espece, tant en France, qu'en 
Angleterre. Contenant les portraits de personnages interessans 
dans ces deux Royaumes, fr donnant la Clef des principaux 
evenemens de I* An 1779, & de ceux qui doivent arriver en ij8o. 
The so-called fourth edition appeared in 1779, printed with 
"approbation and privilege," but there is no evidence of any 
prior edition. The fact that it was printed with royal approval 
shows that official policy was willing to see Franklin portrayed 
in a less favorable role than that of primitive philosopher or of 
scientific wizard. The work, attributed to someone named De- 
launey, who may be none other than the printer, belongs to the 
literary tradition of the personified trifle, developed to perfection 
in England by Charles Johnstone (Chrysal, or the Adventures of 
a Guinea, 1760-65) and Tobias Smollett (The Adventures of an 
Atom, 1769). Delauney's satire cannot be considered in any sense 
British propaganda since the highest praise is accorded to the 


French King and Queen. A strong pro-monarchist and anti-re- 
publican sentiment pervades the entire narrative. 

The hero of the tale, an enterprising louse, is born upon the 
head of a lady of pleasure. After his marriage and the birth of 
several children, he embarks upon his travels, enjoying many 
temporary habitations, among them the persons of a countess, the 
Queen, a soldier, and a laundress. Eventually he establishes him- 
self upon the notorious Mile. d'Eon, Chevalier de St. Louis and 
former Captain of Dragoons, the soldier-diplomat who at the end 
of his career took to wearing female costumes and maintained 
that he had actually changed sex. In the narrative he is strongly 
condemned accused of cowardice, of brawling in public, and of 
consorting with low company. On a visit to Franklin, who had 
invited Mile. d'Eon to dinner, the French louse makes the follow- 
ing observations concerning Franklin's appearance. 

I avow that I could not keep myself from bursting into laughter on 
contemplating the grotesque countenance of this original, who, clad 
in the coarsest garb, from time to time affected the tone and gestures 
of a dandy. A complexion bronzed by the sun, a furrowed brow, 
warts all over his face, which upon him one would say are as at- 
tractive as are the patches which characterise the pretty features of 
Madame la Comtesse du Barry; a heavy and wide chin like those 
one describes as turned-up; a flat nose, and teeth which one would 
have taken for clout nails, if one had not seen them thrust into a 
thick jaw. Such is by and large the portrait to the life of His Ex- 
cellency. As for his eyes, I have not been able to distinguish them 
because, as I have said, I was opposite to him, and he had spectacles 
hooked upon his temples which concealed a good third of his face. 

One will notice that this portrayal of Franklin with the manners 
of a dandy is just the opposite of that in the Memoires de la 
Marquise de Crequy, which presents him with the manners of a 
savage. Parenthetically it might be remarked that this is carica- 
ture, not description. 

Perhaps the most precise and accurate information concerning 
Franklin's actual appearance is furnished by the Duke de Croy, 
who pictured Franklin as "a large man with the most handsome 
features with long white hair, wearing everywhere outdoors a 
large fur cap and having the style of a Quaker moreover, he 
wore nearly always a kind of spectacles without which he would 
never have been able to see, , . . The resemblance is perfect 


in the beautiful print at the head of the quarto translation of 
his works on electricity." 14 

An even more flattering word-portrait is that of Franklin's 
intimate friend du Pont de Nemours. 

It is not enough to say that Franklin is handsome; one must say 
that he was one of the most handsome men of the world and that 
one does not know any one of his age to equal him. All his propor- 
tions proclaim the vigor of Hercules, and at the age of 75 years he 
still has the suppleness and nimbleness of his character. His eyes 
reveal a perfect equanimity and his lips the smile of an unalterable 
serenity. It does not appear that labor has ever tired his nerves. He 
has wrinkles that are gay; others that are tender and proud, but 
there is not one that reflects a laborious existence. One sees that he 
has conceived more than he has studied; that he has amused him- 
self with science, with men, and with public affairs. And while still 
amusing himself nearly at the end of his days, he worked to estab- 
lish the most imposing republic of the world. Below his portrait 
this laconic inscription has been placed: Vir. There is not a feature 
of his physiognomy or his life which belies it. 15 

Again in parentheses, we might remark that this is eulogy, not 

Returning to the imaginary meal of Franklin and Mile. d'Eon, 
we find that they drink thirteen toasts, one in honor of each of 
the thirteen colonies. The lady approaches close to Franklin and 
sings to him several lines of her own composition, which had not 
seemed extraordinary when she composed them, but which Frank- 
lin applauds warmly. To show his gratitude, he embraces Mile. 
d'Eon with ardor, but without taking off his glasses, and whispers 
in her ear, "Until this evening, my divine one." 

After this episode, the louse leaves the Chevalier d'Eon and 
takes refuge with the valet de chambre of the playwright Beau- 
marchais. The servant, who hates the master, maliciously trans- 
fers his fleas to his master's person as a vindictive gesture. The 
hero is then in a position to overhear a dialogue between. Beau- 
marchais and Franklin, when the latter comes to call. In this in- 
terview Franklin is made to appear as the dupe of Beaumarchais, 
and the military and political strategy of the American conflict 
are made to seem the result of Beaumarchais' intrigues, 

In a further adventure the louse finds himself in a wig-maker's 
establishment where a very humbly-dressed friend of the pro- 


prietor engages in conversation with one of the workmen. The 
ensuing dialogue is a brilliant satire on Franklin's habits o fru- 
gality and his advice for attaining success. The impecunious 
friend of the proprietor, appropriately named Benjamin le Franc, 
reveals himself as a disciple of Franklin's policies, boasting first 
of all that he is able to live on a sparse income of only 119 pounds 
10 sous per year, spending but six sous per day. Since he has 
developed the knack of being content with very little, his six 
sous provide him with a life of ease; even his mite makes him 
one-third more rich than Franklin had been during several years 
of his early life. 16 After a detailed exposition of his mentor's ex- 
ample of thrift, the question naturally arises, how did Franklin 
pass from an existence based upon the expenditure of four sous 
per day to his present high station. The answer is: by gradual 

This gentleman became very skilled in electricity. He forced the 
thunder to fall where he ordered it; he commanded it to withdraw 
and it withdrew. He did surprising things. He electrified a dog on 
the opposite bank of a river, making him howl like a martyr with- 
out having the least suspicion of the author of his sufferings. It was 
by his rare and marvellous talents that he acquired the appoint- 
ment as collector of the royal revenue at Philadelphia, a post which 
brought him a yearly 500 pounds sterling (around 1200 in French 

But how could a man of his frugal antecedents spend such a 
vast sum? 

He acquitted himself to perfection: he acquired a wife, children, 
stocked excellent wine, rum and brandy in his cellar, and kept a 
fine table. He was then an excellent royalist because it was his ad- 
vantage to be one. He procured for his son a post in His Majesty's 
service. This same son is now Royal Governor of New Jersey, firm 
in his duty and attachment to His Britannic Majesty. As for his 
own interests, Franklin looked after them very well, perhaps too 
well, if one can judge by subsequent events, since after a certain 
time he was thanked very politely and his place given to another. 

What had Franklin done to bring about this situation? 

Having seen in electricity that there is fire in every thing and in 
every place, he decided that he might turn his knowledge to ac- 
count in maintaining his high standard of living. Consequently he 
electrified the minds of all the Americans and made them believe 


that all the pain they suffered came directly from the Palace of 
Saint James in London, that in this Palace it had been decided to 
treat them as a nation in bondage and to make them pay arbi- 
trarily all the taxes and duties that caprice and interest could con- 
ceive. Nothing else was needed to stimulate these poor sufferers to 
revolt. Franklin was sent to London to make propositions on their 
behalf, which seemed too imperious and even insulting to the Maj- 
esty of the Throne. They were rejected, as the electrician was sure 
that they would be. Returning to his own country, he represented 
wrongs of the British government which did not exist at all. He in- 
flamed spirits, advising his countrymen to throw off the chimerical 
yoke of the mother country. He promised them a liberty which 
would provide happiness for them and their children. He indeed 
wished to become their legislator; he established a form of republi- 
can government and put them under the despotism of Congress. 

Delauney's satire is not primarily political. Franklin's parsi- 
mony rather than his republicanism is the major target. This is 
apparent in the conclusion of the portrait. Benjamin le Franc, 
the French disciple, makes it perfectly clear that he does not 
propose to imitate Franklin's political career by seeking to turn 
his countrymen from their love and duty toward their King. He 
proposes to follow his mentor only in the first phase of his life, 
that is, by contenting himself with little and applying himself 
to improving some superior talent by means of which he may 
rise to a post in the government service. 

The youth of Franklin serves admirably as a target of satire; 
his old age is better adapted to eulogy. We find among the Conies 
MorauX; printed in the Mercure de France under the title "Les 
Souvenirs du Coin du Feu," a sketch of the pleasures of old age 
in which Franklin plays the principal role. Doubtless this por- 
trait, like most of the Conies Moraux in the Mercure, is from 
the pen of Marmontel, nephew of the abb6 Morellet. 17 Nucleus of 
the narrative is a remedy against the vexations of growing old, 
which Franklin describes one evening to a group of white-haired 
dinner guests just before returning to America to die in the 
bosom of his native land. Touched by the realization that he 
would never again see his friends, he asks that they keep his 
memory alive, and, glass in hand, he bids them farewell. One of 
the guests, similarly touched, expresses regret that they could not 
accompany their friend to finish out their lives in a country where 
old age is honored. "Where is it not honored/' Franklin replies, 


"where it knows to be what nature intended that it should be, 
peaceable, calm, moderate, indulgent and, above all, preceded by 
an honest and praiseworthy life?" All too frequently, the guest 
replies, old people who have led useful lives and who have neither 
the crotchets nor the gloom attributed to age are still abandoned 
to solitude. France has given up the custom, still prevalent in 
Pennsylvania, of bringing together all the members of a family 
on holidays and anniversaries, occasions on which great-grand- 
parents may see their descendants of three generations gathered 
around the same table or family hearth. Now instead of receiving 
the reverence of their families, the old are treated with neglect 
and indifference. Domestic dissensions prevail, and even fathers 
and mothers are forsaken by their children. Franklin advises his 
friends not to exaggerate the evils that have inevitably come from 
the internal corruption of a mixed and multiplied society; he 
urges them to pardon the new age for faults that were not un- 
known in ancierit times. 

Doubtless it would be pleasant for the old men to preside over the 
activities of youthat their dances and feasts as in Sparta and in 
the imaginary Republic of Plato; it would be even more useful for 
youth to be admitted to the conversation of virtuous old men, as 
in the ancient banquets; they would profit by the example of cor- 
diality and openness; they would be taught prudence and honesty. 
It must be admitted, however, that youth has interests and occupa- 
tions which are not ours; and in a world where pleasure has ac- 
quired such great vogue and favor, it is not astonishing that the 
young flocks should detach themselves from us, for whom the same 
allurement does not provide the same impulse. 

Franklin's friend, somewhat more stern and gloomy, finds in 
the relaxing of family ties a parallel to the decreased attention 
to religion, arguing that it has been a mistake to abandon the 
concept of an eternal moral order. Franklin agrees that the recog- 
nition of a god, a system of worship, and an infallible and in- 
variable morality are as much a need as a duty. Moral speculations 
do not serve to make the lot of old age less difficult, however, 
and Franklin thereupon offers a suggestion for the dear friends 
whom he is soon to leave. 

You have in yourselves the means of keeping yourselves from the 
ennui of solitude and of making yourselves happy. Young people 
live together. In that only imitate them. Form a circle of the best 


and most estimable citizens of your age; and then, your eyes turned 
toward your best years, let your thoughts go back over your tracks, 
and your hearts will be rejuvenated in breathing again the air of 
your springtime. You will no longer hear so much talk of horse- 
races, of shows, of balls, of new attire, but in compensation you 
will recall interesting memories, and the past will distract you from 
the present and the future. 

Although this is a purely fictitious account of Franklin, it is of 
some interest to notice that the real Franklin, even in his youth, 
was interested enough in the problems of old age to print a 
translation of Gate's Moral Distiches, 1735, for which he wrote 
an introduction. The translation by Franklin's friend James 
Logan was the first translation of a classic author to be written 
and printed in the colonies. 

In Marmontel's account, Franklin appears merely as the sym- 
bol of a distinguished old gentleman. The broad outlines of his 
political career appear in another French work, in which his 
principles of liberty and democracy are praised with the same 
enthusiasm they had earlier aroused in Dubourg and the editors 
of the Ephemerides. An extended allegory by the abbe Gabriel 
Brizard entitled Fragment de Xenophon, nouvellement trouve 
dans les mines de Palmyre, par un Anglais; fa depose au Museum 
Britannicum, & Londres, 1783, depicts the principles and main 
events of the American Revolution. The work is based upon a 
document that the English poet and jurist Sir William Jones had 
composed and shown to Franklin in 1779 in an effort to bring 
about peace between Britain and the colonies. Jones's allegory, 
A Fragment of Polybius, From his Treatise on the Athenian 
Government, is a temperate plea for an accommodation of dif- 
ferences. 18 Describing England as "a republic with a perpetual 
administrator of its laws/* Jones offers the colonies satisfaction 
of all their grievances short of absolute independence, for the 
logical basis of an enduring peace, he feels, can be found in 
strengthening the natural union between England and the colo- 
nies. In this allegory England is given the designation of Athens, 
and Franklin that of Eleutherion, presumably after Jupiter 
Eleutherius, the asserter of liberty. Although some attention is 
paid to the causes of the conflict, the allegory is limited by and 
large to the semi-official peace proposals made by Jones, a private 


citizen, to Franklin, the delegated spokesman of Congress. 
Brizard's Fragment, a much more comprehensive work, presents 
in capsule form the entire history of the American conflict with 
characterizations of the major personalities. Franklin is designated 
as Thales de Milet after the scientist-philosopher of Miletus, 
Thales. Other famous personalities are represented by anagrams, 
such as Erugenes (Vergennes), Tusingonas (Washington), and 
Fylaatete (Lafayette). 

The style of the work, like that of Jones's Polybius, emulates 
classic simplicity. It has some resemblance to the style of Frank- 
lin's own conteSy and it would not be amiss to point out that 
Franklin himself once wrote an essay for his Pennsylvania Gazette 
based upon quotations from Xenophon (September 3, 1730). 

Brizard's Fragment seems to have been written to celebrate the 
treaty of peace. It is not propaganda in any sense of the word, 
but rather a commemorative tribute, parallel to the erection of 
a statue or bust or the celebration of Olympic Games, which are 
mentioned in the work. Praise is accorded to both France and 
America, but particularly to Franklin as the hero of the struggle 
against tyranny. 

The author plays out the farce that the fragment is actually an 
ancient Greek manuscript. With delicate irony he cites an Oxford 
professor to whom it had been entrusted. The latter, arguing that 
it is not in the pure style of Xenophon, who has justly been 
named the Attic Honey Bee and the Athenian Muse, had ac- 
cordingly written an elaborate commentary exposing the errors 
and anachronisms. The French translator, despite these learned 
demonstrations, persists in regarding his author as the most per- 
fect in antiquity and the fragment as the most beautiful of his 
works. If it does not seem worthy of the great reputation of 
Xenophon, "this is due entirely to the poverty of the French 
language, that idiom which all learned authorities agree is com- 
pletely devoid of grace, harmony and expression, a truth borne 
out by the writings of Racine, Fenelon, Bossuet, Rousseau, Buffon 
and Voltaire." 

He proposes to allow the public to settle the question by means 
of a future edition of the original Greek text, which, he is sure, 
will be favorably received, especially if it is printed in a de luxe 
edition. Rich collectors will then be able to buy it without under- 


standing it, and scholars able to read it will be unable to buy it. 
By this simple method no one will have anything adverse to say 
and everyone will be contented. 

In the allegory, the revolted states are portrayed as Greek 
colonies on the coast of Asia Minor, flourishing under a mild 
climate and just and pacific laws. A veritable Golden Age seems 
to have been attained; the natives have escaped dissension and 
war, under the protection of the wide ocean and their primitive 
morality. Like Dubourg, Montesquieu, and many other French 
authors, Brizard attributes to the generality of Americans the 
behavior of Quakers, who, it should be remembered, were then 
a minority group even in Pennsylvania. 

Calm and simple as nature herself, these virtuous mortals abhor 
murder and war; they refrain even from swearing by the gods (for 
they believe that they should not mingle the names of the gods 
with the actions of mortals), but their word is more sacred than all 
the oaths. 

Even Polly Baker seems to have had some influence. 

Happy and fruitful marriages were the safeguard of the morals and 
resources of the state, and in all this enormous country one does 
not find a single citizen who dreams of avoiding the dear and sacred 
bond of Hymen. 

Since France (portrayed as Athens) had at one time established 
colonies in North America, the author does not consider die re- 
volted colonies as offshoots of Great Britain, but of all Europe. 
Britain (Carthage), he suggests, gained control of the colonies 
by dominating the seas, and according to this interpretation, the 
Revolution developed entirely as a result of British maritime 
policies. The questions of taxation and representation, which the 
colonists stated as their chief grievances, are not even mentioned. 
In the allegory the colonists are represented as taking up arms 
to maintain the freedom of the seas. Since they needed allies in 
their efforts, they inevitably turned to Athens, selecting as their 
representative at the Athenian court the citizen most likely to 
succeed in the delicate negotiations. 

This was Thales of Miletus, the glory and ornament of his nation. 
It was he who had first lighted the torch of art in this part of the 
world. He had opened an academy, where men were instructed in 
science and citizens, in virtue. He had been one of the most ardent 


promoters of liberty as he had been one of the most zealous votaries 
of philosophy. For him, nature had no mysteries and wisdom, no 
veil. Some maintained indeed that he had inherited the secret of 
Prometheus and that when he wished, he forced the celestial fire to 
descend upon the altars of the gods. Also he had been named by 
the oracle as one of the seven sages of Greece. 

Thales then had the approbation of all his fellow-citizens. Al- 
though of an advanced age, he was not afraid to entrust himself to 
the dangers of a long and perilous crossing, during which he had 
equally to fear the perfidy of the elements and the jealousy of the 
Carthaginians [British]. 

His reputation had preceded him to Athens. The Athenians had 
admired his wisdom and his virtue, but his physical characteristics 
had been until then unknown. His demeanor at the same time calm 
and venerable, the noble and majestic character of his face, his fea- 
tures, which breathed candor and virtue, his locks silvered by age 
and honorable labor, everything, even including his costume, the 
simplicity of which contrasted singularly with the elegance, the 
finery, and the affected manners of the Athenians, attracted notice 
and fixed attention. Everywhere he appeared, he was eagerly fol- 
lowed. Everywhere flattering applause announced his presence. 
Women, who are particularly susceptible to strong feelings, pointed 
him out as a model to their sons in order to inspire a notion of 
the heroism of virtue. A young child, believing that he had caught 
sight of the old man's features, said to his mother, "Mother, is this 
Nestor?" "Yes, my son, it is Nestor," she said. "Remember all your 
life the moment when you saw this great man." 19 

This dramatic incident seems reminiscent of Franklin's presenta- 
tion of his grandson to Voltaire, with the latter playing the role 
of Nestor. One wonders how Franklin felt when it was read aloud 
with himself in the audience at the Muse de Paris. 

In subsequent passages, Thales, admitted to the Areopagus, 
addresses the Athenians, declaring that he has been attracted to 
their city, not by their arts, their buildings, and their magnifi- 
cence, but by the reputation of their justice and generosity. He 
appeals for their aid, therefore, not on the ground of the advan- 
tages that might accrue to them by helping to defeat Carthage, 
but solely on the ground that it is the nature of the generous 
Athenians to repair injustice as soon as it is revealed to them. 
These wise and diplomatic words are hailed by both the people 
and the monarch, with the latter immediately announcing him- 
self to be a defender of the liberties of the colonies. 

There ensues in the narrative a description of the exploits of 


the noble French, including d'Estaing and Lafayette, who have 
joined in the struggle. Particular notice is given to the military 
genius of Washington, described as "the prodigy of his century 
and his nation," and the political sagacity of Vergennes, Even 
the English are credited with a valiant defense and a patriotism 
greater than had ever before existed in their land. 

Finally, peace is declared. Joyful feasts and frivolities take place 
at Paris; monuments, including a national theater, are dedicated. 
The crowning event is the holding of Olympic Games, during 
the progress of which eulogies are made of the fallen brave and 
of the political reforms of the Athenian monarch. 

Thales appeared at these games and experienced the fullness of 
his glory. All eyes were turned upon him. He was named the Liber- 
ator and Legislator of Asia [America]. The code of laws which he 
had designed for the new republic [the Constitution of Pennsyl- 
vania] was placed beside his immortal writings. His statue was 
borne in triumph to the acclamation of all the assemblage. It was 
crowned with an olive-branch, symbol of peace, and a laurel wreath, 
symbol of genius. He was represented holding with one hand the 
torch of Prometheus and with the other the sacred banner of lib- 
erty. At the foot of his statue is inscribed the celebrated line of 
Sophocles, the sense of which is 

He wrenched with a bold hand the thunder from the skies and 
the sceptre from the tyrants. 

Similar symbols to pay tribute to Franklin had been used at 
the outset of the American Revolution by Beaumarchais in dedi- 
cating to Franklin a little-known work, Le Voeu de toutes les 
nations, et Vinteret de toutes les puissances dans I'abaissement 
et I' humiliation de la Grande-Bretagne . . . 1778. In his dedica- 
tion, Beaumarchais drew upon his highly-accomplished talents 
in an effort to praise Franklin in a manner that Franklin would 
find fresh and novel. To this purpose he introduced symbols of 

The heroes of Greece and Rome served their country in order to 
have a statue, to obtain a triumph. They believed that glory was 
the only recompense that the gods and men of virtue should expect 
from the gratitude of men. Rome erected statues and bestowed the 
honors of the triumph upon the victor of Numantia and Carthage, 
but Athens gave only two sprigs of laurel to the one who had de- 
livered her from the thirty tyrants. The seven heroes of Persia who 


exterminated the Magi-usurpers wanted for themselves and their 
posterity only die privilege of wearing a peaked cap on the front 
of their heads because this peaked bonnet had been the mark of 
their fortunate enterprise. For you, Monsieur, above the statues 
and triumphs of Rome, the laurels of Greece, and the cap of Persia, 
there is nothing great enough in the world to be the reward of 
the signal services that you have rendered your country. 

Beaumarchais further attributes to Franklin's noble influence 
the freedom of the New World and the dawn of the fortunate 
revolution in America. In the text of his work, Beaumarchais, 
like the author of the Fragment of Xenophon, finds the chief 
danger to world security in the British monopoly of the seas. 
All nations should defend themselves, he maintains, against the 
pretensions of a single power to universal monarchy of the seas. 


The Fragment of Xenophon, which we discussed in the last chap- 
ter, ends with the inscription 

II arracha d'une main hardie, au ciel sa foudre et le sceptre aux 

This is, of course, a translation of the most famous line ever 
written about Franklin, the Latin epigram attributed to Turgot. 
It appeared originally as the first line of a six-line stanza of 
which the other five were in French. 1 

Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis 
Le voila, ce mortel dont 1'heureuse Industrie 
Sut enchainer la foudre et lui donner des lois, 
Dont la sagesse active et l'loquente voix 
D'un pouvoir oppresseur affranchit sa patrie, 
Qui d&arma les Dieux, qui r^prima les Rois. 

In 1778 the epigram appeared under the famous bust of Franklin 
by Houdon 2 and also upon a terra-cotta medallion of Franklin by 
Jean Baptiste Nini, who is supposed to have been the first to use 
Notes to this chapter begin on page 246. 


the epigram in a work of art. 3 In the same year Fragonard designed 
an allegorical engraving to illustrate the Latin line, 4 and knowing 
that Franklin was to visit the Louvre, he prepared a plate in 
advance and printed it in Franklin's presence, in order to present 
him with the first impression. The conceit in the epigram based 
upon the electricity discovery had been exploited many years be- 
fore in the abb Mangin's Histoire generate et particulikre de 
I'electricite, 1752, without special reference to Franklin. Mangin 
wrote that "one must acknowledge that if Prometheus acquired 
such a great reputation for having stolen fire from the gods, the 
heroes of electricity deserve to be crowned with an immortal 
glory, for not content to imitate their thunderbolts and lightning, 
they dared to try to seize them out of their hands." s Turgot by 
adding the political parallel rendered the conceit the exclusive 
property of Franklin. 

The grandeur and magnitude indeed the panegyric sublimity 
of the epigram seem to be unparalleled. We may perhaps attain 
an idea of its grandeur through the aid of a renowned legal au- 
thority, who, speaking before the Academy of Lyon in 1781, de- 
veloped the essence of the epigram to portray Franklin's contri- 
bution to human knowledge. 

Jupiter who disposed of the thunder at his pleasure was a fable in 
Greece, and in our day it has become a reality in America. Frank- 
lin said to the thunder, "fall/* and the thunder fell. But whereas 
the god of Greece governed the thunder like a man to seek revenge 
and to destroy, the man of America governed it like a god; he ended 
its destruction and annulled it by diverting it from human beings.* 

The Latin epigram and the French verses that follow are gen- 
erally attributed to Turgot although none of his letters or other 
documents extant conclusively prove his authorship. After Frank- 
lin's death, the infamous Baron Trenck argued in court that he 
had written the Latin epigram. 7 Turgot on June 5, 1776, alluded 
to the verses in his correspondence without compromising himself 
by admitting authorship. "On the subject of America," he wrote 
to du Pont de Nemours, "here are some Latin and French in- 
scriptions for the portrait of Franklin by an anonymous writer. 
Copy them with your own hand and burn the original/' 8 Since 
Turgot occupied a high government position, this injunction 
may have been motivated by caution rather than literary modesty. 


John Adams, who was visibly irked by the French adulation of 
Franklin, expressed two different theories attributing the Latin 
epigram to sources other than Turgot. On December 15, 1809, 
he wrote to F. A. Vanderkemp: 9 

. . . When I was in Leyden, a gentleman was introduced to me, 
I know not by whom, who presented me with a small volume of 
Latin poetry of his own composition. In it was the famous compli- 
ment to Dr, Franklin, 

Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis, 

and I always understood that gentleman to be the author of it. Can 
you tell me his name? It has been, in France and the world, attrib- 
uted to Mr. Turgot; but I have always understood that Mr. Turgot 
took it from that volume, and only altered it to "Eripuit coelo ful- 
men; mox sceptrum tyrannis" Pray, tell me, if you can, the name 
and character of that Leyden Latin poet, and whether my memory 
has not deceived me. 

Apparently Adams' correspondent had no knowledge of a Latin 
poet, for two years later Adams had a new theory. His exposition 
of it in the Boston Patriot, May 15, 1811, is notable, not for its 
clues to authorship, but for its statement of the significance of 
the epigram as a measure of Franklin's celebrity. 10 

. . . To condense all the rays of this glory to a focus, to sum it up 
in a single line, to impress it on every mind and transmit it to all 
posterity, a motto was devised for his picture, and soon became fa- 
miliar to the memory of every school-boy who understood a word of 

"Eripuit coelo fulmen sceptrumque tyrannis." 

Thus it appeared at first, and the author of it was held in a mys- 
terious obscurity. But, after some time, M. Turgot altered it to 

"Eripuit coelo fulmen; mox sceptra tyrannis/' 
By the first line, the rulers of Great Britain and their arbitrary op- 
pressions of the Colonies were alone understood. By the second was 
intimated that Mr. Franklin was soon to destroy or at least to de- 
throne all kings and abolish all monarchical governments. This, it 
cannot be disguised, flattered at that time the ruling popular pas- 
sion of all Europe. It was at first hinted that it was written in Hol- 
land; but I have long entertained a suspicion, from many circum- 
stances, that Sir William Jones, who undoubtedly furnished Mr. 
Franklin with his motto, 

"Non sine Diis animosus infans," 


sent him the Eripuit coelo, and that M. Turgot only added the max 

We see that Adams himself gave up the theory of Dutch author- 
ship, and there is no evidence to associate Sir William Jones in 
any way with the epigram. It is possible, as Adams suggests, that 
Turgot found the epigram in some obscure author and adapted 
it to his own purposes by adding the adverb mox. All evidence, 
however, indicates that the reverse is what actually took place- 
that the original version utilized mox and that it was eliminated 
in subsequent printings. Condorcet states unequivocally in his 
Vie de Turgot that Turgot was the author and prints the version 
with mox. 11 

Franklin gave his opinion of the verses in two of his letters 
that have since been published. John Jay, minister plenipoten- 
tiary to Spain in 1780, had written to him requesting a print of 
his portrait, and Franklin sent him one bearing Turgot's verses, 
modestly explaining that the extravagance of the praise was due 
to the contemporary French tendency to exaggerate (June 13, 
i78o). 12 Later when the French poet Felix Nogaret sent Franklin 
a translation of the epigrammatic first line into French and asked 
his opinion of it, Franklin replied (March 8, 1781) that modesty 
kept him from making any observation" except that it ascribes 
too much to me, especially in what relates to the Tyrant; the 
Revolution having been the work of many able and brave Men, 
wherein it is sufficient Honour for me if I am allowed a small 
Share." 13 

Franklin is said to have written in almost identical terms to 
Turgot: "I shall draw your attention merely to two inexactitudes 
in the original line. In spite of my experiments with electricity, 
thunder continues to strike at our noses and beards, and, as for 
the tyrant, we have been more than a million men occupied in 
taking away his scepter.*' 14 

As soon as the Latin epigram began to circulate, d'Alembert 
wrote the following interesting letter to Jean Baptiste Antoine 
Suard: 15 

You are aware of the line about Franklin: 
Eripuit coelo fulmen, mox sceptra tyrannis. 

I should agree with La Harpe that sceptrumque is more appro- 
priate, first since mox sceptra is a little harsh, and also because mox, 


according to the dictionary of Gessner, which gives examples, signi- 
fies equally statim or deinde, which leads to an equivocation mox 
eripuit or mox eripiet. 

Be that as it may, I have tried to translate this line for Frank- 
lin's portrait. 

Tu vois le sage courageux 

Dont Theureux et male gnie 

Arracha le tonnerre aux dieux, 

Et le sceptre a la tyrannie. 

If you find these lines tolerable enough so that I shall not be 
ridiculed for them, you may put them in the Paris paper, even with 
my name; I shall be honored for this homage paid to Franklin, but 
still only on the condition that you find them printable; as I am not 
pretentious about them, I shall be quite content if you reject them 
as bad. 

One might also write for the third line: a ravi le tonnerre aux 
cieux, or aux dieux. I prefer the other, but you may choose. 

Here are some other lines which I have written this night for the 
same portrait, for you see that I am at the moment like Mascarille, 
incommode de la veine poetique. You may make use of them in the 
same manner and under the same conditions. 

Sa vertu, son courage et sa simplicity 
De Rome ont retract le caractere antique; 
Et cher a la raison, cher a I'humanitd, 
II ^claira 1'Europe, et sauva 1'Amerique. 

Would you prefer the first line like this: 

Son gen^reux courage et sa simplicity. 
Or would you prefer the first two lines in this way: 

Par son noble courage et sa simplicity 
De Rome il retraga le caract&re antique. 

The latter are linked a little more smoothly with the two follow- 
ing; but the others contain the additional quality of vertu, which 
is perhaps not a matter of indifference. 

I wrote the third line at first, 

Et cher a la raison comme a Thumanit^. 

It is less poetic than the other, but it seems to me that there is 
something more interesting conveyed by the simplicity of the turn. 
However I lean toward the other; you may choose. 

But in the four lines of the second group, do you not prefer Sparta 
to Rome? It seems to me that Sparta is more valuable since there 
has always been but a single characteristic associated with Sparta, 
whereas Rome has frequently changed. Nevertheless, the word 
antique may indicate ancient Rome. 


D'Alembert must have seen an early version of the Latin epigram 
since he quotes the second hemistich as mox sceptra tyrannis. 
The majority of printed versions read, sceptrumque tyrannis, 
the emendation that d'Alembert and La Harpe favored. 

D'Alembert's translation together with his emendation was 
forthwith published in Le Courrier de I'Europe where he is de- 
scribed as one of the greatest geometricians of Europe, one who 
joins to the profundity of the sciences all the graces of the sub- 
ject. Two years later his own verses were likewise printed in Le 
Courrier in the following form: 17 

Sa vertu, son courage 8c sa simplicite, 
De Sparta ont retract le caractere antique; 
Et cher la raison, cher a Thumanite, 
II eclaira 1'Europe & sauva TAmerique. 

One notices that in this version the editor (or the author) has 
substituted Sparta for Rome, but otherwise none of d'Alembert's 
second choices have been incorporated. 

Of the various critics, both French and American, who have 
noted Latin parallels to Turgot's epigram, Grimm seems to have 
been the first. In his Correspondance litteraire (April, 1778) he 
pointed out that the first hemistich derives from the Astrono- 
micon of Manilius (I, iO4). 18 Here the poet is speaking of Epi- 

Eripuit Jovi fulmen, viresque tonandi. 

It has also been compared to the Anti-Lucretius of the Cardinal 
Polignac (I, 1747)- 19 

Eripuitque Jovi fulmen, Phoeboque sagittas. 

The most pointed tribute to Turgot's epigram appeared after 
the death of both Turgot and Franklin in a review of Franklin's 
Memoirs in Le Mercure de France (juin I>JQI)*> The author, 
Chamfort, contrasts Turgot's epigram with the most famous Eng- 
lish verses about Franklin, verses that had been paraphrased in 
France among the additions to the Buisson edition of Franklin's 
Memoires. These English verses, which the French critic justly 
describes as a malicious eulogy (&oge malin), were actually writ- 
ten many years before Franklin's death by an enemy of Franklin 
and the American Revolution, an American Loyalist Jonathan 


Odell. The lines are not a funeral elegy as they have sometimes 
been interpreted, but a subtle attack on Franklin's political ca- 
reer disguised as a tribute to his scientific genius. The ingenuity 
of the lines consists in a play on the word urn> used to suggest a 
funeral urn, but describing a stove in a similar shape. The com- 
plete title is "Inscription for a Curious Chamber-Stove, in the 
Form of an Urn, so contrived as to make the Flame descend, in- 
stead of rise, from the Fire: Invented by Doctor Franklin." 

Many manuscript copies of these verses circulated widely 
throughout the colonies. As a result of their anonymity, they were 
attributed to several Philadelphians, among them the wife of 
Franklin's most jealous critic, William Smith, the man who by 
one of the least fortunate choices in American history was chosen 
after Franklin's death to deliver the official panegyric of Franklin 
in America. The sincerity of Smith's performance can be judged 
from the fact that he warmly praised the following lines in a 
memorandum concerning his eulogium of Franklin. 21 

Like Newton sublimely he soared 
To a summit before unattained; 
New regions of science explored, 
And the palm of philosophy gained. 

With a spark which he caught from the skies, 
He displayed an unparalleled wonder; 
And we saw with delight and surprise, 
That his rod could secure us from thunder. 

Oh! had he been more wise to pursue 
The track for his talents designed, 
What a tribute of praise had been due 
To the teacher and friend of mankind. 

But to covet political fame 
Was in him a degrading ambition; 
The spark that from Lucifer came 
Enkindled the blaze of sedition. 

Let candor then write on his urn, 
"Here lies the renowned inventor, 
Whose flame to the skies ought to burn, 
But inverted, descends to the centre." 22 

The enemies of Franklin highly admired the final stanza, a judg- 
ment revealing at least as much partiality as esthetic penetration. 


In truth the lines are ambiguous; one cannot be sure whether 
they mean that Franklin's political views were self-centered or 
merely that they were not divinely inspired. 

The French reviewer of Franklin's Memoirs saw these verses 
only in translation, the last pan of which I shall print along with 
his pertinent and just comparison of these lines to Turgot's epi- 

". . . Thus sincerity will write on his urn: Here rests the renowned 
inventor. His genius, like the flame, should have raised itself to- 
ward the skies, but forced and perverted, it descends towards the 
earth, and the spark reenters the somber abode from which it 

One cannot deny that this comparison is ingenious. And here is 
one of a more beautiful kind: 

Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis. 

A minister of France, M. Turgot, when he was in office wrote this 
line for the bust of Franklin, while a simple private citizen of Eng- 
land put together the rhymes we have read in translation. Here is 
a contrast which is not at all to the advantage of the English versi- 
fier. Perhaps it even betokens a marked change in the spirit of the 
two peoples. 

It seems to me that this is one of the most penetrating com- 
ments ever made concerning Franklin's literary reputation. Al- 
though Odell was a Tory and an enemy of Franklin, his verses 
are the best in English ever to be written about him, and during 
Franklin's lifetime they enjoyed great vogue throughout Frank- 
lin's own state of Pennsylvania. The contrast in the verses of 
Odell and of Turgot symbolizes not only the difference between 
the French and the English national spirit, but also the reception 
and recognition accorded to Franklin in his native America and 
in his adopted home France. This same contrast is further illus- 
trated by the eulogies after the death of Franklin, which I shall 
discuss in a subsequent chapter. 

There is more to be said about the translation of Turgot's epi- 
gram. Masson, who had seen d'Alembert's translation in Le Cour- 
rier de I'Europe, sent Franklin his own attempt (June 22, 

II arracha par ses rares talens 

La foudre aux dieux, le sceptre aux tyrans. 


Du Pont rendered it: 2 * 

II a, par ses travaux, toujours plus tonnans, 

Ravi la foudre aux Dieux, et le sceptre aux Tyrans. 

F&ix Nogaret not only translated Turgot's epigram, but sent 
Franklin critical remarks on the difficulty of making an adequate 
translation in as few words as the original Latin (March 2, 
i78i). 25 Every previous French translation had required at least 
one additional line. Nogaret took for illustration a version that 
had appeared during the previous year in I' Almanack des Muses. 

Get homme que tu vois, sublime en tous les terns, 
Derobe aux dieux la foudre et le sceptre aux tyrans. 

The first line, Nogaret felt, was supererogatory. He suggested as 
an improvement arrache for derobe, but even with this change he 
felt that this single line would fail to comprise the full meaning. 
A noun or pronoun would have to be added, but to make such 
an addition would overburden the meter. He suggested as a com- 
promise, therefore, a line supplying the pronoun but elimi- 
nating the images of foudre and sceptre. 

On 1'a vu d&armer les tyrans et les dieux. 

The omission of foudre and sceptre he justified on the grounds 
that they were implied by the sense. To disarm Jupiter is to take 
away his thunder; to disarm a tyrant is to take away his sceptre. 
The Latin coelo, Nogaret felt, was a concept more embracing 
than the French deux. He substituted, therefore, the word dieux, 
which refers specifically to beings. Of his translation he con- 
cluded, "I do not say that the matter gains, but the poetry does 
not lose." 

Translations of the epigram found their way into a number of 
quite different literary genres. Billardon de Sauvigny, for exam- 
ple, worked a version into an American battlefield scene in his 
drama Vashington, ou la liberte du nouveau monde, 1791. The 
French ambassador is addressing Washington. 

Ce g6nie immortel, Fhomme de tous les terns, 
Qui dirigea la foudre et diassa les tyrans, 
Politique profond et philosophe austere, 
Franklin, cher aux Fran^ais. 


Abbe Morellet used the idea of the first hemistich as one stanza 
o a long drinking song in honor of his friend. 26 

Comme un aigle audacieux, 
II a vol jusqu'aux cieux, 
Et drob le tonnerre 
Dont ils effirayaient la terre, 

Heureux larcin 
De Thabile Benjamin. 

Abbe Louis Gabriel Bourdon in a verse dialogue Voyage d'Ame- 
rique, 1786, refurbished the concept as evidence of intellectual 
life in America. 27 

Ce n'est point cependant qu'en ce Monde nouveau, 
Comme le vil Sauvage admire par Rousseau, 
Des Sciences, les Arts, d^daignant la culture, 
L'homme soit insensible leur volupt pure. 
Par leurs talens divers servant tous deux FEtat, 
Franddin 8c Washington brillent du mme clat. 
Tandis que de Passy le sage politique, 
Bienfaiteur des humains en morale, en physique, 
Par-tout victorieux, triomphoit la fois 
De la foudre des Dieux & de celle des Rois. 

The most ingenious version of all is that of the Comte d'Estaing, 
a famous naval hero who participated in the American Revolu- 
tion. In his version, which appeared on the title page of a politi- 
cal essay, he cleverly combines the tribute to Franklin with the 
proud statement that Franklin had corrected his essay, Appergu 
hazarde sur I' exportation dans les colonies, 1790, dedicated to 
Franklin. 28 

Toi qui corrigeas tout, le tonnerre, & les Rois, 
Nos foyers trop brulants, les exclusives loix, 
Peuples, discours, & sons; & meme mon ouvrage; 
Revis, 8c par tes traits fais valoir cet hommage. 

A note by the editor on the verso explains the meaning of these 
lines. Franklin had corrected overheated living rooms by his 
Pennsylvania fireplace and had corrected the laws of Pennsyl- 
vania by abrogating restrictions on public office based on reli- 
gious affiliation. He had corrected sound by his Harmonica and 
had corrected literary works when he read proof for his own 
printing press. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, that he 


should have corrected a work by d'Estaing when he was at Passy. 

D'Estaing's essay is a defense of transporting vagrants to the 
colonies as a salutary social principle. When we remember Frank- 
lin's vigorous protests against the same system in America in his 
Exporting of Felons to the Colonies, 1751, it is hard to believe 
that he could have sanctioned the arguments of d'Estaing. Even 
though the latter's scheme concerns primarily beggars and volun- 
teers rather than hardened criminals, it is antithetical in senti- 
ments to Franklin's earlier essay. 

Because of the tremendous vogue of Turgot's epigram, scores 
of other aspiring poets tried their hand at composing verses for 
Franklin's portrait. Even before Turgot's epigram, French verses 
had appeared under Franklin's portrait in 1773 on the frontis- 
piece of Dubourg's edition of Franklin's (Euvres. 

II a ravi le feu des Cieux 

n fait fleurir les Arts en des Climats sauvages 

L'Am&ique le place la tte des Sages 

La Grce 1'auroit mis au nombre de ses Dieux. 

An English admirer, perhaps Franklin himself, translated them 
for the English press. 29 

To steal from Heaven its sacred fire he taught, 
The arts to thrive in savage Climes he brought: 
In the New World the first of Men esteem'd; 
Among the Greeks a God he had been deem'd. 

Four years later, in the midst of the American Revolution, Du- 
bourg wrote a quatrain much more incendiary. 80 

C'est Thonneur et Fappui du nouvel h^misphfere 
Les flots de Toc6an d^bordent k sa voix. 
II rdprime, ou dirige son gre le tonnerre, 
Qui desarme les dieux put-il craindre des rois. 

Grimm reported in his Correspondance litteraire (October, 1777) 
that these verses were made expressly for the portrait of Franklin 
designed by Cochin and engraved by Saint-Aubin, but the censor 
considered himself obliged to suppress them as blasphemous. 81 
For this reason Dubourg's lines do not appear on any of the 
Saint-Aubin portraits now in existence. 

The verses from Franklin's (Euvres were apparently known in 
manuscript as well as in print. La Harpe circulated them in his 


Correspondence litteraire (Lettre LXIII) along with another 
quatrain by M. Target, described as one of the best lawyers of 
the bar, who was also a personal friend of Franklin. 32 

Le voili ce mortel, dont 1'heureuse Industrie 

Au tonnerre imposa des loix. 
II est beau d'asservir la nature au genie: 

II est plus beau de triompher des rois. 

Du Pont de Nemours apparently sent the following variant to 
an English friend of Franklin for criticism: 

C'est Franklin, ce mortel dont Fheureuse Industrie 
Sut enchainer la foudre et lui donner des Loix. 
C'est lui dont la raison affermissant la voix 
Du joug de Tlnjustice affranchit sa Patrie; 
II dsarma les Dieux, II rprime les Rois. 

The friend replied, September 5, 1775, a time when Americans 
uniformly attributed their grievances to Parliament, not to the 
Crown, that "The last line is too strong, might have pass'd when 
Plurality of Gods were in fashion, and when Kings were Tyrants 
and were not pesterd with bad ministers." 3S 

When Franklin in 1781 asked an engraver to cast some special 
types for his press at Passy, the engraver, Fournier, printed off a 
sample sheet with other verses for Franklin's portrait. 3 * 

Honneur du nouveau Monde 8c de THumanite, 
Ce Sage aimable & vrai les guide & les ^claire; 
Comme un autre Mentor, il cache Foeil vulgaire, 
Sous les traits d'un Mortel, une Divinit^. 

These verses may be identified as the work of Aim Ambroise 
Joseph Feutry, a member of the American Philosophical Society, 
published originally in his Nouveaux opuscules, 1779, along with 
several other verse tributes to Franklin. 35 

After the sensational balloon ascents of Montgolfier, one of 
Franklin's fellow Masons, Hilliard d'Auberteuil, compared Mont- 
golfier to Franklin as a kindred conqueror of the skies. His lines 
appeared in the Memoires secrets, December 24, 1784. 

Si Jupiter veut nous reduire en poudre, 
Sage Franklin, tu lui precis tes loix, 
Et Montgolfier, plus hardi mille fois, 
Va jusqu'au del lui disputer la foudre. 


Several similar epigrammatic tributes to Franklin exist in manu- 
script form in the American Philosophical Society, but a printing 
of them would add little to the story of Franklin's reputation. 
The verses that enjoyed contemporary vogue were those of Tur- 
got, Dubourg, and d'Alembert, of which the first two at least 
were in great measure a labor of love. All three, it should be 
noted, expressed advanced political concepts. The epigram of 
Turgot, which attained international fame, undoubtedly had 
some effect in preparing public opinion for the ideals of the 
French Revolution. 

As we have seen in our survey of works of fiction, not everyone 
in France was a partisan of Franklin or of the American Revolu- 
tion. In verse also, a satirical portrait has survived under the title 
Stances sur les Insurgent** 

Entire nous, ces fameux athletes 
Que vous accablez de lauriers, 
Leurs vertus sont dans les gazettes, 
Leurs vues sont dans leurs foyers. 

Vous voyez leur mobile unique, 
Ce vieux Docteur in partibus 
Dont Tinsidieuse rubrique 
Vous echauffe de ses rebus. 

Sur I'Am&ique consternee 
Pla^ant le bout d'un conducteur, 
De 1'autre TEurope 6tonne 
II lance le feu destructeur. 

Camleon octog&iaire, 
Son esprit se ploye aisement; 
De la France fc de 1'Angleterre, 
Le fourbe rit ^galement. 

La haine dont son coeur regorge 
Fait qu'en ses propos inouis, 
Si Louis lui r^pond de George, 
George lui r^pond de Louis. 

Ce Hancock qu'il tient en tutelle, 
Aux dehors plats, aux sens grossiers, 
Peut fournir un riche modele 
A nos d&icats financiers. 


Franklin de Tor du fanatique 
Ebauche son hardi projet, 
Et dans cette farce heroi'que 
II en fit son milord Huyzet. 

Many longer poems were written in praise o Franklin, a large 
number of which served merely as a pretext for asking him favors, 
usually monetary. The number of these now existing in manu- 
script form shows either that Franklin liked to save scraps of 
paper or that he was tolerant of bad poetry if it had something 
to do with idealistic political concepts. The poems that found 
their way into print, however, are of a different character. Each 
had some independent quality besides the merely occasional fea- 
ture of celebrating Franklin. 

Franklin himself printed one of these on his Passy press a 
light piece written to accompany a gold-headed walking stick, 
emblematic of the crown of liberty, when it was presented to 
Franklin by Madame de Forbach, Comtesse Douairiere de Deux 
Fonts, 37 According to the progress theme of the poem, the wood 
of the cane had been seized on the plains of Marathon by the 
Goddess of Liberty before abandoning Greece. It had been trans- 
ported to Switzerland, where the valiant mountaineers fought 
against the invading Austrians, and more recently to Trenton, 
where Washington defeated the British. The poet assures Frank- 
lin that his possession of this symbol of victory will assure him of 
a place in the Temple of Memory. Probably this tribute led 
Franklin later to dedicate the walking stick to Washington in his 

An even lighter effusion was inspired by a minor poetess, resi- 
dent of Nimes, Madame de Bourdic, who became acquainted 
with Franklin during a sojourn in Paris in 1783-1784. On her re- 
turn to the provinces, an anonymous admirer twitted her in 
"Epitre Madame la Baronne de Bourdic, sur ses relations avec 
le Docteur Franklin," which appeared both in the Journal de 
Paris, July 5, 1784, and in the Almanack des Muses, 1785. What 
a spectacle, wrote the poet, to see this elegant lady abandon the 
ballroom and the theater for a philosophic Quaker! Grudgingly 
he granted that the Nestor of Philadelphia was adored on two 
continents, that his bold hand had snatched the thunder from 


the gods, the sceptre from the tyrants, but he argued that Frank- 
lin had honors enough without monopolizing the lovely de Bour- 
dic. Playfully he suggested that if Franklin were her own age, 
they would have enjoyed less incorporeal relations. 

Franklin's scientific exploits were celebrated in the spirit of 
Turgot's epigram in an ode by M. Paris of the Oratory, entitled 
Le Fluide Electriquef* In the passage devoted to Franklin, the 
poet addresses the American philosopher as one who knows how 
to decompose the fire that animates us and to lay expiring thun- 
derbolts at our feet. The poet then considers Franklin as a sym- 
bol of his age. The eighteenth century, he affirms, will live be- 
cause of Franklin's accomplishments and will receive the homage 
of all other ages whenever the name of Franklin is uttered to 

One of Franklin's fellow Masons, Joseph Fran$ois Michaud, 
read before the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, July 14, 1791, a long 
poetic tribute entitled Franklin Ugislateur du nouveau monde. 
It was printed in an anthology of pieces read before the society 
and also as a separate work. 39 In the opening stanza Michaud 
gives an idyllic picture of America, favored in climate, virtue, 
and freedom, the latter won through the wisdom of Franklin, who 
was considered as a tutelary god. The second stanza describes the 
philosophical calm of his death. Franklin awaits the end without 
fear; he stems the tears of his friends by assuring them that he 
abandons his life to God, confident of his virtue and patriotism. 
Succeeding stanzas, rich in poetic imagination, have little relation 
to actual truth. In a deserted and tranquil valley, not far from 
the Potomac River, Franklin's ashes repose on a simple and ma- 
jestic altar to which his friends repair to sing his praise. Among 
them, John Adams, who in real life had very little affection for 
Franklin, delivers a speech lauding Franklin's virtue, his leader- 
ship during the Revolution and his subsequent law-making, his 
economic theories and his electrical discoveries. As the skies be- 
come brighter, Franklin himself descends from heaven in a cloud 
of light to depict the glories of his celestial habitation. In paradise 
he had seen Solon and the heroes of the Tiber, jealous of the 
liberty of the American people, and Cato, who was now no longer 
so proud of being a Roman. Finally, Franklin heralds the demise 
of the Iron Age and the birth of the Golden Age under the 


laws of Liberty: the sun is purer, nature is more beautiful, and 
society returns to happiness and man to virtue. 

A dramatic poet and early romanticist, Billardon de Sauvigny, 
portrayed Franklin in two apologues in verse. "L'heureux fruit de 
rinstruction" traces Franklin's gradual political progress from wit 
to rebel. 40 In a prior prose paragraph the English court is de- 
scribed immediately after the War of 1756, when the ministers, 
taking cognizance of the enormous colonial sacrifices in men and 
materials, realize that the colonies have become extremely power- 
ful. They decide to incite them to insurrection in order to de- 
prive them of their charters and treat them as an enslaved nation. 
The poem presents Franklin's behavior in the face of this situa- 
tion. At first he writes satirical pamphlets to instruct the people 
and show the need for reforming, but by degrees he realizes that 
open resistance is the only means of procuring liberty. 

In a longer poem, "Les derniers adieux de Francklin [sic] 
aux frangais," Sauvigny describes the farewell scene,* 1 in which 
Franklin himself speaks words of consolation to enable his 
friends to endure the pain of separation. His friends, tears in 
their eyes, assure him that the French people also are rising to 
expel tyrants and regain supreme authority. Franklin, congratu- 
lating them, reviews his OTTO experiences. Hoping to remedy 
colonial grievances at the British court, he had found there only 
egotism and corruption, but in France as soon as he had ac- 
quainted the people with the patriotic ideals of the Americans, 
they had responded with sympathetic warmth. He praises their 
courage in espousing the same cause of human rights and pre- 
dicts they will be an example for the whole universe. Although 
he warns that the united weight of monarchs will be pitted against 
the Revolution, he assures them that he has cast their horoscope 
and has read their eventual triumph. Finally, Franklin prophesies 
that the new, freed French nation will have as its boundaries 
those that nature prescribed, the Pyrenees, the Alps, the seas, 
and the Rhine. 

Most interesting, most finished, and most original of all the 
poems on Franklin is a dramatic narrative of brisk, ringing verse 
with the simple title Le Docteur Franklin, Poeme* 2 The author 
of this work of twenty-six pages, divided into four chants, is 
M. le Manissier, professor of humanities at the College du Mont 


in Caen. In the opening chant, after an invocation to the amiable 
Goddess Liberty, Franklin is seen crossing the ocean en route to 
France with a retinue of 100 warriors. The elements favor these 
new argonauts; the splendor of the sea and the myriads of stars 
in the sky inspire Franklin's companions to pour out praise for 
the magnificence of heaven. Franklin agrees with them that they 
should be grateful for divine blessings, but warns them against 
the error of assuming that God exists for their benefit rather 
than the reverse. He points out that the suns of the universe are 
not created exclusively for our world, that God does not limit 
his works to those that concern human beings. Each world indeed 
has its own sun or rather, each sun has many worlds, for a single 
sun can give light to twenty planets. After a long description of 
the sun's influence upon the seasons and climates of the world, 
Franklin utters his own hymn of praise on the theme that the 
sun itself confounds atheism. 

O Soleil! que ton cours me parait merveilleux! 
Que tu m'annonces bien la sagesse des Cieuxl 
Quand tu brilles sur nous serait-il des Athees? 
Et des humains leurs voix sont-elles coutes? 

Arrived in France, Franklin addresses the French monarch, im- 
ploring his supreme goodness to aid the people of Boston. The 
former enemies of the French king are now beseeching his aid to 
free them from the English yoke, and Louis, in reply, compli- 
ments Franklin for his active prudence. 

FRANKLIN ne voit sur lui s' Clever que les Dieux. 

In the second chant, Franklin outlines the causes of the Amer- 
ican war. The English had violated the peaceful economy of 
America by imposing tributes so onerous that its prosperity had 
been converted to desolation. Franklin says that until that mo- 
ment he had lived apart from political affairs in devotion to phi- 
losophy. He loved peace, hated war, but seeing the carnage of the 
English, suddenly realized that he must dedicate himself to the 
salvation of his country. Kept by age from bearing arms, his only 
means of serving was to appeal to Louis for aid. He proceeds to 
praise the august French monarch, viewing him as the destined 
rampart of liberty in Boston. Louis responds with compliments: 


La Vertu de FRANKLIN ne m'est pas inconnue; 
Sa reputation jusqu'a nous est venue. 
La Justice elle-mme emprunte votre voix; 
Oracle des humains, vous leur dictez ces loix. 

Louis promises French aid as an ally against England and fore- 
casts the defeat of the English fleet by the French forces under 

In the third chant, Franklin returns to America by way of Cuba 
and Santo Domingo, colonies of Spain. Here he sheds tears over 
the ravages of the Spanish, who have destroyed ancient cultures 
and overthrown the native agricultural prosperity. He laments 
the fate of Montezuma and condemns the ferocious Cortez. De- 
scribing the mines where miserable Negroes and Indians are re- 
duced to perpetual slavery, he scores the perversion of nature 
by which the advantages of fertile soil and beneficent climate are 
neglected for mineral wealth. He contrasts these scenes of desola- 
tion with the Utopian city of Philadelphia and the benevolent 
laws of Pennsylvania, to which he returns after passing the coasts 
of Florida and Carolina. 

The fourth chant is partly allegorical. In it, Washington, van- 
quisher of tyranny and servitude, erects a Temple of Liberty, con- 
taining pictorial representations of the peaceful prosperity of 
America. But there are two enemies of liberty, Pride and Avarice, 
which stand guard, allowing only Christians to enter, excluding 
Negroes and Indians. The latter protest that since they also are 
human and children of God they should have the same rights as 
others. Washington, in the name of the All-Powerful Supreme 
Being, suggests that they be allowed to enter the Temple, but 
makes no forthright statement; instead he expresses gratitude for 
the aid of Louis XVI in helping to break the bondage of slavery. 
Franklin in similar strains recites his interviews with Louis and 
his ministers and celebrates the victory over the English with the 
aid of d'Estaing. But, he urges, it was primarily Liberty that de- 
livered Boston, and Liberty is incompatible with Negro slavery. 
He concludes, therefore, with an impassioned plea for the freeing 
of all slaves in America, Indian and Negro. 

Obviously this author had very little knowledge of Franklin 
and even less about America. His poem should be considered less 
a personal tribute to Franklin than an imaginative defense of the 


principles for which Franklin stood. Perhaps even better than an 
open panegyric o Franklin's virtues, this narrative of Franklin as 
a champion of human rights is evidence of the enviable reputa- 
tion he enjoyed in contemporary France. 


The French theater also served as a means of paying tribute to 
Franklin. While he did not figure as the protagonist of any major 
dramatic work during the eighteenth century, he did play an im- 
portant role in a number of works dramatic in form. First of these 
is the allegorical tableau of Le Roux, Dialogue entre Pasquin fc 
Marjorio, 1779, which we have already discussed. 1 Although never 
intended for stage presentation, it has certain dramatic features 
to be sure those of a masque rather than of a comedy of situation, 
but there is indubitably movement in the dialogue. 

The decade immediately after Franklin's death the era of the 
French Revolution brought with it a number of plays on the 
theme of the reception of departed heroes in the afterworld, dra- 
matic counterparts of the popular dialogues of the dead of the 
preceding century. The same spirit that led to the substitution 
of the heroes of the Pantheon for the saints of the church appar- 
ently brought about a revived interest in the pagan shades as a 
compensation for the loss of the Christian heaven. In Le jour- 
naliste des ombres, 1790, by Aude, a newspaper man descends to 
the nether regions to interview the philosophic mentors of the 
Revolution concerning their opinions of the events that their 
works had helped to initiate. 2 Rousseau, Voltaire, the abb de 
Saint Pierre, and others are praising the new constitution, when 
Franklin appears as a passenger in Charon's boat. 

Rhadamante le voit, court, 1'embrasse & s*6crie, 
Cest le rival des Dieux, le Dieu de sa patrie, 
Le Vengeur de Fhumanite' 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 248. 

DRAMA 143 

L'Ap6tre de la libert< 
Le Sage de Philadelphie. 

Voltaire, Rousseau, and the others welcome Franklin effusively. 
To Voltaire's question as to why he left the earth at the very 
moment that liberty and justice are beginning to triumph, Frank- 
lin replies that when he saw his dearest wishes accomplished on 
two continents, he realized that he was at last ready to retire. 

Qu'avois-je & voir sous le ciel qui 1'eclaire? 
Tout avoit de mon coeur rempli les voeux ardens. 
J'ai vu F^galite, ce supplice des grands, 
Jeter dans Tunivers ses racines profondes. 

J'ai vu la chute des tyrans 

Et la liberte des deux mondes. 

Both Voltaire and Rousseau laud Franklin for his service to uni- 
versal liberty, and Franklin returns the compliment to France by 
honoring Lafayette's role in the American Revolution. 

In a similar piece, L' ombre de Mirabeau, 1791, Franklin joins 
with Voltaire, Rousseau, and a number of the ancients in honor- 
ing Mirabeau as he enters the Elysian Fields. When Voltaire's 
remains were taken to the Pantheon, a play celebrating the event, 
Le pantheon frangais, 1791, brought together a number of de- 
parted notables including Voltaire, Rousseau, and Franklin. In a 
poem on the same theme (in Les Sabates Jacobites, Nos. 33-34, 
1791), Rousseau and his friends in the Elysian Fields encounter 
Franklin in the company of Solon, Lycurgus, and Plato. 

The second play in which Franklin plays a major role is a 
dramatization of a commemorative ceremony in honor of Frank- 
lin held by the printers of Paris, August 10, 1790. The play, 
L'imprimeur ou la fete de Franklin, which was staged eight 
months later, has as its hero Germeuil, a fellow-printer and ardent 
admirer of Franklin. 8 The scene is his printing shop where a bust 
of Franklin is to be dedicated. On the day of the celebration 
Germeuil addresses a gathering of soldiers and printers, pointing 
out that no man could serve them as a better model than Franklin 
to teach them regard for liberty. Born poor and obscure, he be- 
came the preceptor of nations, the savior of America, the patriarch 
of liberty. Following closely the address delivered on the occasion 
of the actual ceremony, Germeuil pledges himself to follow Frank- 
lin's example. "Like us, my friends. Franklin began as an ap- 


prentice printer and while he followed the trade not an obscene 
line appeared on his presses he employed his types exclusively 
for works sanctioned by the government, by morals, by law, and 
by truth/' At the actual ceremonies, a speaker had urged the 
printers to serve as self-censors in the service of reason and truth; 
apparently at this time the printers were suspected of seditious 
or anti-revolutionary activities and were being exhorted by the 
government to remain loyal. 

In the finale of the play, Franklin is praised by verses such as 
the following: 

Si vous voul^s au vrai civisme 

decerner rimmortalitd 

offrir b. qui l'a mdrite 

I'hommage du patriotisme; 
Ah! c'est toujours, toujours francklin 
que nommera notre refrain. 


oui, chaque jour, couronne, et gloire 
Chantons c&dbrons sans fin 
la m&noire 
de francklin 

Diderot in a one-act play, "La pifece et le prologue," composed 
about 1772 and retouched in 1777, alluded briefly to Franklin 
as "un acuto quakero," probably to give a contemporary air to 
the work. 4 And in a German translation, 1793, of Diderot's Les 
bijoux indiscretS; the name of a character, Charron, is converted 
to Franklin. 5 

Franklin appeared as the symbol of liberty also in L'epouK rl- 
publicain. by Maurin de Pompigny, presented in 1794. This is 
a species of heroic play in which the principal character de- 
nounces his wife and son to the authorities for anti-revolutionary 
activity. The protagonist has renounced his aristocratic name 
"Leroi" in favor of the name "Franklin," which he has taken as 
a symbol of republicanism. Newly-named, he explains to his 
friends, "as soon as it was permissible to change one's patron, 
7 took Franklin for mine, and I love to bear his name. It reflects 
the sincerity of his character and the liberty of his country." 

Finally, a dramatic author, A. &rieys, presented a dialogue 
between Franklin and Mirabeau in the same volume with his 

DRAMA 145 

tragedy in three acts, La Mort de Robespierre, 1801.* Employing 
the form of a dialogue of the dead a genre that we have seen 
was not far removed from actual dramatic works of the time 
Serieys considers Franklin as an emblem of constitutional reform 
and contrasts him with the demagogues Mirabeau and Marat. In 
the opening speech of the dialogue Franklin asserts that he had 
predicted the French Revolution a fact by no means certain 
and he presents an interesting comparison between the revolu- 
tions in France and America. 

Yes, monsieur, I had predicted everything which has happened 
to the French people in consequence o a revolution poorly con- 
ceived and even less well carried out. They wanted to ape us Amer- 
icans, but they failed to understand that above all it is necessary 
to have that purity of behavior, that love of law, without which 
there cannot exist true liberty. You advanced some excellent prin- 
ciplesbut the ambition of some individuals spoiled everything and 
you were not yourself far removed from serving a man who, under 
the name of Equality, carried in his heart the thirst for the throne 
and supreme power. 

To these words Mirabeau replies that it is unfair to judge his 
motives, which must remain concealed because of his premature 
death, adding that he should be judged instead by his writings, 
his discourse, and his actions. Franklin delivers a scorching in- 
dictment of the latter an appraisal of great interest in view of 
the literary relations between the two men in real life. 

Do you believe that because you made my eulogy at the tribunal of 
your assembly and brought about my funeral honors, that you have 
the right to impose upon me. I am not your fellow-citizen, Monsieur 
the Count, and since I must say it, I do not like you at all. Your 
life is a tissue of perfidies and atrocities. Not content with tortur- 
ing your wife, you brought shame upon two women whom you ab- 
ducted and whose husbands you robbed. . . . And the enormous 
debts you never ceased to contract; and the false money you put into 
circulation; and the writers, the friends, whose reputation you stole 
by passing off their compositions as your own & promising to repay 
them, which you have never done; and the spirit of libertinism 
which dishonored your whole life and led you to a premature 
grave; and the reckless ambition which forced you to attempt all, 
betray all, and sacrifice all were these minor errors of youth? 

Instead of answering these accusations, Mirabeau cleverly turns 
the subject to Franklin's own life. 


Doctor, if we were both living you would not speak to me in this 
language. It is not in my character to use reprisals in the form of 
calumnies. Do you think, however, that your own conduct is irre- 
proachable? Each step that you made was it not a step toward hon- 
ors or employments? Reveal, if you dare, your whole heart; explain 
how from a profound obscurity you attained the highest degree of 

This, of course, is exactly what Franklin had done in writing his 
memoirs; in fact, he was the first in the history of western litera- 
ture to analyze in detail his rise from obscurity to eminence. One 
wonders whether S&rieys was thinking of Franklin's autobiography 
when he wrote this passage; if so, he seems to suggest by the 
parallel with Mirabeau that everything in Franklin's life was not 
as honorable as public opinion assumed. Was Srieys in effect 
an early critic of Franklin's opportunism? There is no further 
light on this point in the dialogue, for Franklin makes no reply 
to the implied slurs upon his life. He merely makes the conces- 
sion to Mirabeau that he was somewhat less villainous than his 

Whether or not S&rieys intended his dialogue as a reflection 
upon Franklin's moral career, contemporary readers would prob- 
ably have made the association with his Memoirs, which, as we 
shall see in the next chapter, enjoyed a considerable vogue at 
the time. 



His Own and His Friends' 

Recollections and 

Conversation Pieces 


Franklin's Memoirs, his most important literary work, is con- 
nected with France in two important ways. Franklin sent a re- 
vised copy to Passy to be read by his friends Le Veillard and La 
Rochefoucauld, and three of the four parts into which the auto- 
biography is divided were first printed in French translations on 
French presses. 1 The second part, moreover, was written at Passy 
in 1784. 

From the latter circumstance it might be assumed that this part 
would reflect the interests and perhaps the influence of Franklin's 
French circle. Although there is evidence to show that Franklin 
discussed the content of this section with his French friends, there 
is no reason at all for believing that his sojourn in France in- 
fluenced this or the other parts of his memoirs. The section writ- 
ten at Passy concerns primarily his Art of Virtue or scheme for 
attaining moral perfection, which he included as part of his 
memoirs at the instigation of two of his friends who wrote to 
him from America and from England while he was residing at 
Passy. Franklin inserted their letters in the text of his memoirs 
as an introduction to the second part. His American friend, Abel 
James, exhorted him to complete his autobiography so that when 
published it would lead young men "to equal the industry and 
temperance of thy early youth." His English friend, Benjamin 
Vaughan, remarked on *'the chance which your life will give for 
the forming of future great men; and in conjunction with your 
Art of Virtue (which you design to publish) of improving the 
features of private character, and consequently of aiding all happi- 
ness, both public and domestic." Franklin never published his 
Art of Virtue separately, but included it as the major element 
of the second part of his autobiography. It is obvious then that 
the inspiration for this section came from afar and not from 
Passy, where it was written. 

While composing or planning his work, however, Franklin 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 249. 



discussed it with the abb Morellet and with Cabanis. As we shall 
see in a subsequent chapter, the former sent to Le Moniteur 
Franklin's anecdote of a speckled axe before it appeared in print 
in the Memoirs? and Cabanis recorded conversations with Frank- 
lin on three of the subjects in the section of the Memoirs written 
in Passy. 3 These comprise the industry and frugality of his wife, 
a proverb from the Bible, and the little notebook that Franklin 
had devised as part of his system to correct his moral faults. This 
little notebook he allowed Cabanis to hold and examine. 

Although Franklin's French sojourn had little influence on the 
contents of his Memoirs, it had a tremendous influence on the 
subsequent history of the manuscripts of the work, which made 
their way to France as a result of the friendships Franklin had 
made in Passy. The story of the composition and publication of 
Franklin's Memoirs is one of the most complicated in any litera- 
ture, and the work presents the most perplexing textual problems 
to be encountered anywhere in American letters. The reason for 
these problems is that Franklin wrote his Memoirs in three sep- 
arate sections, then had two copies made that incorporated a 
number of changes, and later wrote a fourth section. At present 
the manuscript of the original version is still in existence, but 
only printed texts of the revised versions exist. No one can be 
sure whether Franklin would have wished the original or the 
revised version to be considered as the authoritative text The 
differences, chiefly in phrasing rather than ideas, are fundamental 
enough to give each version a distinctive character. 

We are not concerned with these textual variants, however, but 
with the history of the publication of the Memoirs in France. To 
explain this it is first necessary to outline the four parts: 

Part I, comprising 44 per cent of the entire work, was written 
at Twyford, England, in 1771. It concerns Franklin's life to 

Part II, comprising 9 per cent of the entire work, was written 
at Passy in 1784. It contains Franklin's scheme for moral per- 

Part III, comprising 40 per cent of the entire work, was written 
at Philadelphia in 1788. It continues the narrative to Frank- 
lin's arrival in London, July, 1757. 


Pan IV, comprising 7 per cent of the entire work, was presumably 
written at Philadelphia between November, 1789, and Frank- 
lin's death, April, 1790. 

The first part, Franklin says, was written primarily for his family; 
the other three for the public. 

In 1789, Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, made 
two copies of the first three parts. Franklin sent one copy to Eng- 
land to be read and criticized by his friends Benjamin Vaughan 
and Richard Price and the other to France to be read by Le 
Veillard and La Rochefoucauld. These two copies embodied the 
revisions already alluded to. Franklin retained in his own pos- 
session the original manuscript and later added to it Part IV. 
This manuscript is now in existence at the Huntingdon Library 
in California. At the time of his death, Franklin willed the orig- 
inal manuscript to his grandson William Temple Franklin; the 
copy sent to England remained in the hands of Vaughan and 
that sent to France remained in the hands of either La Roche- 
foucauld or Le Veillard. 

The last trace of Vaughan's copy is found in a letter that he 
wrote to La Rochefoucauld (June 4, 1790) announcing Franklin's 
death, extracts from which are now printed for the first time.* 

It is with much concern that I inform your grace, that about the 
beginning of April last, Dr. Franklin was seized with an impos- 
thume in his lungs, which was attended with pain & difficulty of 
breathing for 10 days & was succeeded with some days of ease, but 
finally carried him off about the 16: day. He was sensible, as usual, 
excepting a part of the last day. 

He died in affluence, leaving some lands to Mr. W. T. Franklin, 
& the rest of his fortune chiefly to the family of his daughter Mrs. 
Beach. Mr. Jay & four others are his Executors. 

I do not find that he continued his memoirs beyond the year 
1757, but the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia have 
resolved upon an Eloge, which will probably include many particu- 
lars of his life. I am told that Dr. Rush is to send me some anec- 
dotes & papers respecting him. 

The copy of his memoirs which he sent to me is still in my hands, 
unseen by any one excepting Dr. Price & myself, to whose opinions 
he was pleased to submit it. We have accordingly made some re- 
marks, & forwarded them to America. It is probable that his Execu- 
tors, or his family, or whoever shall have power herein, will not 
refuse to adopt the little that is proposed by us; and if similar re- 


quests have been made by Dr. Franklin to those persons at Paris to 
whom he transmitted another copy, it will be kind in them not to 
suffer his representatives in America to rest without the communi- 
cation of such observations as may have occurred to them. In the 
meantime, every thing here will remain in its present state till we 
are further instructed by those who have direction concerning these 
papers; which rule, I presume, will be observed at Paris. 

This letter tells us among other things that Vaughan and La 
Rochefoucauld were good friends and that Vaughan and Price 
had written out their opinions of Franklin's work and had sug- 
gested further changes. Unfortunately, their observations have 
not been preserved. 

In 1791 an enterprising but unscrupulous printer, Buisson, 
published a French translation of Part I of the Memoirs together 
with a collection of other pieces by and about Franklin. 5 No one 
knows where Buisson obtained the manuscript from which this 
translation was made nor why he apparently had access only to 
Part I. That he did not see the copy in the possession of Le 
Veillard is apparent from a letter Le Veillard sent to Le Moni- 
teur, March 2, 1791, condemning Buisson for priming Franklin's 
work without authorization, but admitting that Buisson's text 
was essentially the same as the manuscript in his possession. 6 

A short time before his death, Franklin sent me the memoirs of his 
life written by himself. I have translated them, and I have deferred 
publication only out of regard for his family and for Mr. W. T. 
Franklin, his grandson, to whom his ancestor willed all his manu- 
scripts, and who proposes to make a complete edition of them, both 
in English and in French, in which he will insert my translation. 
He is at this moment in England where he is occupied with this 
subject, and in a few days he will return to France to complete it. 

There has just been published at the establishment of Mr. Buis- 
son a volume in octavo entitled, Memoires de la vie privde de Ben- 
jamin Franklin, Merits par lui-mme, et adresses k son fils. The first 
156 pages of this volume contain indeed the beginning of Frank- 
lin's memoirs, entirely conformable to the manuscript which I pos- 
sess. I do not know how the translator has been able to procure it, 
but I declare, and I believe it necessary to make it known, that he 
did not receive it from me, that I had nothing to do with the trans- 
lation, that this part, which ends at 1730, is hardly a third of that 
which I have, which goes to 1757, and which consequently does not 
complete the work, and that the rest is in the hands of Mr. W. T. 
Franklin, who will arrange his edition in such a way that the mem- 


oirs will form one, or at most two, volumes, which may be procured 

Le Veillard felt obliged to make this public statement since Wil- 
liam Temple had previously pledged him not to publish his copy 
nor to show it to anyone except possibly to the member of the 
Academy who was to write Franklin's eulogy. William Temple 
made this request in a letter (May 22, 1790) shortly after Frank- 
lin's death, explaining that a publication of any pan of Frank- 
lin's Memoirs would be prejudicial to a complete edition that 
he was himself preparing for publication. 7 

Condorcet, the member of the Academy chosen to write Frank- 
lin's eulogy, seems not to have seen Le Veillard's manuscript, but 
apparently contented himself with a paraphrase of high points 
of the narrative prepared expressly for him by Le Veillard. The 
evolution of Condorcet's oration may be traced through four 
separate manuscript drafts still in existence. 8 Le Veillard, in send- 
ing his paraphrase under the title "Notices tirees des mmoires 
de monsieur Franklin," wrote to Condorcet, 

... I shall not hide from you that I should be flattered if, with- 
out making the slightest eulogy of me, you could, however, make 
known in that of Monsieur Franklin the warm friendship which 
he had for me. 

In response to this request Condorcet inserted the following sen- 
tence concerning Franklin's return to America: "He embarked 
at an English port, where he was accompanied by M. Le Veillard, 
who during his residence at Passy had lavished upon him all the 
concerns of a filial tenderness, and who wished to defer the 
melancholy instant of an eternal separation." 9 

It has been suggested that the Buisson translation, which ap- 
peared during the same year as Condorcet's 61oge, was based upon 
Vaughan's copy, but there is no evidence to support this conjec- 
ture; nor does this supposition explain why the Buisson version 
should be confined to Part I. Another hypothesis is that when 
Franklin returned to America in 1785, he found Part I among 
his papers, revised it, and sent a copy to La Rochefoucauld before 
proceeding to write Part III. Then in 1789 he may have sent to 
France another copy of all three parts. This hypothesis is sug- 
gested by the draft of a letter among the papers of the abb6 de 


la Roche designed to point out some o the errors in the Castra 
edition of 

... his Memoirs which go as far as 1757 had been written at this 
period in America. In France he said to his friends that he believed 
them lost in the pillage of all his papers by the English, but that 
he had conserved all of his notes concerning his political career and 
that he would complete putting them in order as soon as he re- 
turned to America. Returned to his home, he rediscovered the first 
part of his life conserved by one of his friends, and he immediately 
passed it on to the Duke de La Rochefoucauld. 

This communication is not absolutely reliable. The statement 
that Franklin wrote part of his Memoirs in America about 1757 
is completely inaccurate. It is quite true, however, that when he 
returned to America he found Part I, which he had left there in 
1776, preserved by his friend Abel James. It has been established 
that practically all variations between the original manuscript 
and the revised copy exist in Part I. It is quite possible that 
Franklin returned to Philadelphia, bearing with him Part II, 
which he had composed in Passy; then rereading Part I, which 
he had not seen for nine years, he revised it to conform to the 
style of Part II, and then made two copies of his revision, re- 
taining one for himself and sending the other to La Rochefou- 

Sometime between 1790 and 1792, William Temple Franklin 
exchanged his manuscript (the original) for the revised version 
in Le Veillard's hands, an exchange that may have already taken 
place when Le Veillard wrote his letter to Le Moniteur. It is 
not certain why William Temple Franklin wished to trade manu- 
scripts, nor why Le Veillard was willing to cooperate. Perhaps 
William Temple knew that Franklin had made revisions and 
wished to have his grandfather's final word in his possession. Le 
Veillard had begun his translation with the revised copy, and 
after procuring the original manuscript, he changed several pas- 
sages of his translation in an effort to restore the original word- 
ing. The manuscript of his translation, covering all parts, which 
was not printed until a few years ago, is now in the Library of 
Congress. 11 

The Buisson text was translated into English and published 
by a London printer, Robinson, in 1793. Then in 1798, Buisson 


brought out a fuller edition of the Memoirs translated by Castera, 
an edition comprising a retranslation into French of Part I from 
the Robinson edition and a fresh translation of Part II made in 
Philadelphia from a manuscript loaned to the citizen Delessert. 
The latter had previously communicated this translation to La 
Decade PhilosophiqueJ- 2 

William Temple Franklin, with the revised copy in his pos- 
session, continued gathering materials for a complete edition of 
Franklin's works, which he finally published in London in 1818. 
This edition included the revised copy of the Memoirs (Parts I, 
II and III) and marked the first publication of Part III, the only 
one of the four parts not to appear originally in French. 

In 1828 another French publisher, Renouard, brought out a 
translation of the William Temple edition, with an additional 
feature a translation of Part IV based on the original manuscript 
then in the hands of the Le Veillard family. Part IV did not 
appear in English until 1868, when John Bigelow printed the 
entire original manuscript, which he had obtained from the last 
descendant of the Le Veillards. 

French readers of Franklin's autobiography naturally looked 
for resemblances to the Confessions of Rousseau, which had ap- 
peared in 1782. Castera in his edition of 1798 declared that Frank- 
lin and his friends were appalled by Rousseau's Confessions and 
that Franklin's Memoirs was designed to offset its baneful effect. 13 
It is more plausible to say that Franklin's work is a contrast to 
the Confessions than to consider it an imitation, but probably 
Franklin did not even consider the author of Emile in writing 
his own autobiography, particularly since he wrote Part I in 
1771, eleven years before the publication of Part I of Rousseau's 
Confessions. This does not rule out the possibility that he may 
have given some thought to the Confessions in writing the later 
sections. Although there is no evidence that Franklin ever read 
Rousseau's outpourings, some of his friends had been intimates 
of Rousseau, particularly the Comtesse d'Houdetot, the Sophie 
of the Confessions, who once held a famous fete in Franklin's 
honor. 14 A communication among the papers of the abb6 de la 
Roche, however, a companion piece to the one already quoted, 
forthrightly asserts that Franklin wrote quite independently of 
Rousseau. 15 


If the estimable editor of Memoires sur la Vie de Franklin 
printed by Buisson had consulted some of the friends "whom this 
great man had left in France and who lived with him in the great- 
est familiarity, he would have been able to gather interesting 
anecdotes and avoid the errors of fact too lightly advanced in his 
preface and in his notes. He would not have said that Franklin 
wrote his Memoirs on account of the Confessions of J. J. Rousseau. 
Because of the solicitation of his friends, he designed them 20 
years previously and left them in America in his home, which was 
pillaged by the English. One of his friends saved them. They were 
continued at his return to Philadelphia and sent in France to the 
Duke de La Rochefoucauld. 

Franklin read little, and his type of mind would not have ap- 
preciated the works of Rousseau, least of all his Confessions. He 
attached more importance to a fact well observed than to all ab- 
stract reasoning not founded either on nature or on the truth of 
experience. His sound reason made him prefer solidity of thought 
and everything which the examples and lessons of an everyday 
morality offer to man to the embellishments and refinements of 
style. His tastes of wisdom and study were based upon a ground- 
work of happiness and general utility. Concern for the welfare of 
his fellow men is revealed in all the conduct of his life and even 
in the most minor bagatelles which came from his pen. 

Other critics might observe that Franklin and Rousseau had 
much more in common than is here represented. Each intended 
to accomplish what had never before been attempted in English 
or French literature to reveal to his fellow creatures the writer's 
own character in all the truth of nature. Whether the autobiog- 
raphies of the sages of Philadelphia and Geneva are remarkable 
primarily for contrasts or similarities, it was only natural for lit- 
erary critics to consider them jointly. 

Chamfort pointed out a significant parallel in the rise of both 
men from poverty to eminence: 16 

Here is something which would have appeared impossible at the 
beginning of the century and which is merely to be admired at the 
end. It is a pleasure to imagine the astonishment of the high and 
mighty of Europe about the year 1730, if a prophetic spirit, an- 
nouncing the destinies of Franklin and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, had 
said to them: "Two men of the class of those whom you designate 
the common people, poor, destitute to the point of sleeping in the 
open air; the one, after establishing liberty in his nation; the other, 
after establishing the first foundations of social organizations, would 


have the honor of having beside . . . each other a statue in the 
Temple of Liberty ... at Paris." 

Chamfort was particularly impressed by Franklin's ability to see 
the relations between small things and great, particularly "the 
influence of minor events in youth upon character, upon the ideas 
which determine the habits of a lifetime, and upon principles 
which eventually decide the role one plays in the most important 

A reviewer for Le Moniteur remarked that no other of the 
distinguished men of the century was accorded a more universal 
veneration by the French nation than was Franklin. 17 No one 
else of this period who had passed upon the theater of the world 
had revealed such perfect harmony between his practice and 
principles, "had done so many great things with a more simple 
air, had offered in his demeanor, patriarchal and venerable, a 
more striking or useful contrast with our futile and corrupt man- 
ners, had more greatly advanced, although indirectly, our po- 
litical regeneration." Franklin's principal claims to glory and to 
the gratitude of the French people, according to this reviewer, 
were his contributions to American liberty, and by indirection 
to French, the influence of his presence and conversation, and 
the popularity and concreteness he had given to truths that others 
had rendered remote and abstract. This critic believed that the 
story of his private life gives more than a sterile pleasure; by 
tracing the development of his reason and his fortune, it fur- 
nishes valuable lessons for all posterity. 

The reviewer for the Journal de Paris said little about the 
literary aspects of Franklin's Memoirs, but quoted the description 
of Franklin's personal appearance from Hilliard d'Auberteuil 
and discussed his influence on the French Revolution. 18 This 
writer considered it incontestable that the American Revolution 
had produced the French, but was not sure whether its example 
would be baleful or salutary. The chief value of Franklin's work, 
in his opinion, was the light it might shed on the fundamental 
political question confronting the French people, whether it is 
possible for an old, corrupted nation to cultivate true liberty. 

The most enthusiastic of French comments on Franklin's 
Memoirs was appropriately that of La Rochefoucauld, who de- 


scribed the work in a eulogy of Franklin before any part of the 
Memoirs had been published. 19 

In it, he speaks of himself as he would have spoken of another. 
He traces his thoughts, his actions, and even his errors and his 
faults. He portrays the development of his genius and of his talents 
with the sentiment of a clear conscience which has never had to 
reproach itself. 

In fact, Franklin's entire life, his meditations, his laborsall have 
been directed toward public good; but this great object that he 
had always in view did not close his heart toward private senti- 
ments. He was beneficent; the charms of his society were inexpres- 
sible. He spoke little, but he did not refuse to speak; and his con- 
versation, always interesting, was always instructive. 

We see then that indirectly as a result of the friendship of La 
Rochefoucauld and Le Veillard, Franklin's autobiography became 
widely known and appreciated in France before it was even 
printed elsewhere. 

Although French and American readers have been enjoying 
the Memoirs for over a century, there are still many unsolved 
problems connected with the circumstances of publication. Did 
Franklin send a copy of Part I alone to La Rochefoucauld? If 
not, how can the Buisson translation be explained? When Frank- 
lin made the two revised copies that were sent to England and 
France, did he make another copy for his own use? If he did not, 
why would he make changes which he apparently considered im- 
provementsand then let all copies incorporating these improve- 
ments leave his own possession? If he did make a copy for him- 
self, why did he not add Part IV to his improved copy rather 
than to the original version? Unfortunately, documentary evi- 
dence that might have answered these questions seems to have 

Contemporary French readers were, of course, not concerned 
with these problems, of whose existence they were not even 
aware. So far as they were concerned, the Memoirs were in a 
sense a biographical commentary on Bonhomme Richard, a fur- 
ther opportunity of making acquaintance with the founder of 
American liberty. 



As we have seen, The Way to Wealth is fundamentally a very 
miscellaneous production that Franklin himself never took very 
seriously, but that many of his readers loaded with moral sig- 
nificance. There exists in Franklin's works a related category of 
facetious writing, produced primarily for self-amusement, a series 
of humorous sallies united in spirit only by a slight overtone of 
didacticism. Franklin was at heart a moralist, and he found amuse- 
ment in moral reflections even when combined with absurd situa- 
tions or bawdy allusions. A number of minor works combining 
these characteristics have been jointly discussed by various critics 
as Franklin's bagatelles. In some, the moral overwhelms the 
ludicrous; in others, the ludicrous overwhelms the moral. Most 
critics in treating them have emphasized ethical concerns. Ac- 
tually these should be considered secondary. The important thing 
to be said is that Franklin wrote most of these light pieces not 
for the effect that they would have on readers potential or ac- 
tualbut for his own amusement in composing them. 

Franklin began writing bagatelles in his youth and continued 
throughout his life. The most famous are those composed during 
his sojourn in Paris famous primarily because Franklin printed 
them on his own printing press for distribution to a closed circle 
of friends, and because bibliophiles have exaggerated their lit- 
erary merit in deference to their extreme value as typographical 
rarities. Because of this combination of circumstances the defini- 
tions associated with Franklin's bagatelles have been highly arti- 
ficial and arbitrary. One critic considers them to comprise only 
those lighthearted essays or jeux d' esprit, printed at Franklin's 
Passy press, and intended for the amusement of himself and his 
friends. 1 W. T. Franklin maintains that they make up a collection 
written for an intimate society in both London and Paris, a col- 
lection that Franklin himself gathered together and left in a 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 550. 


portfolio and that W. T. Franklin published in his edition of 
Franklin's works. 2 Since these and other current schemes of classi- 
fication fail to provide a consistent or homogeneous list, it might 
be more useful to apply the same definition in describing Frank- 
lin's bagatelles that would be used in connection with the face- 
tious minor works of any other author. Accordingly, the term 
would include all light and short works written at any time dur- 
ing the author's career for the conscious amusement of the author 
himself. Polly Baker and William Henry would obviously be 
included in the group of Franklin's bagatelles. Franklin wrote 
many other light pieces before coming to France, but we shall 
here be concerned only with those written after his arrival or 
those that gained some renown in France. 

We cannot say for certain that he printed all these pieces on 
his own press installed at Passy since Passy imprints do not exist 
for at least two of his French bagatelles ("An Economical Project" 
and "Petition of the Left Hand"), which were published in 
periodicals. He may very well have printed them privately as 
well, but no evidence exists that he did. The question of whether 
the bagatelles reflect, in the words of one critic, an "exquisite 
French," rather than a "solid Saxon or English quality," is a 
tenuous one. 8 If it is possible to contrast English with French 
fun-making, perhaps it may be said that the English excel in de- 
lineating "humor" characters or types (Ben Jonson), in describing 
by means of exaggeration and irony (Jonathan Swift), and in 
perpetrating literary hoaxes (Swift again). The French may be 
said to excel in apparent infantine simplicity or naivete (La Fon- 
taine), in grace, precision, and conciseness (Voltaire), in whimsy 
or delicate fantasy (Marivaux), and in a certain charm that comes 
from an assumed aloofness of the narrator (La Bruyere). Common 
to both French and English styles are burlesque, intellectual 
gymnastics, such as puns, and comedy of situation. Four or five of 
Franklin's bagatelles have the delicacy of touch associated with 
the French mode, but others exhibit typically Anglo-Saxon blunt- 
ness a result either of excessive didacticism ("The Whistle") or 
heavy-handed ribaldry ("Letter to the Royal Academy of Brus- 
sels"). Against the last identifying characteristic of Anglo-Saxon 
comedy, one might say that Rabelais is sometimes considered to 


be characteristic of the Gallic spirit, but even so, Franklin in the 
last-mentioned piece outdoes Rabelais. 

Certainly the bagatelles were intended for an audience vastly 
more sophisticated than the general public that, even before 
Franklin's French sojourn, had known his moral and political 
propaganda. The bagatelles were intended for a select circle, 
composed of a few very close friends with whom Franklin passed 
his leisure hours in Passy. As might be expected, considering 
Franklin's acknowledged amorous disposition and the reputed 
attractiveness of French women, the most intimate of Franklin's 
associates were priests and ladies. At the moment of his arrival 
in France, he was introduced into the homes of Turgot, Helve- 
tius, La Rochefoucauld, and d'Holbach. Here "he formed several 
liaisons which he cultivated with much care. He loved to cite 
and to practice faithfully the proverb of his friends the American 
Indians, 'Keep the chain of friendship bright and shining/ " * 
Two of Franklin's most shining links in France were Mme. 
Helvtius, widow of the philosopher, and Mme. Brillon, the 
young wife of an apparently indifferent husband twenty-four 
years her senior. 

Mme. Helvetius kept a famous salon in her home in Auteuil, 
which came to be known as The Academy, in honor of the more 
than thirty members of that society who frequented it. Her more 
intimate associates were two priests and a medical student, who 
actually resided on her estate more or less permanently. All three 
came to be intimate friends of Franklin also, and joined him in 
paying homage to Notre Dame d' Auteuil, the name that they 
had given to Mme. Helvetius. All three, moreover, wrote very 
informative memoirs concerning Franklin after his death. One 
of them, the abbe Morellet, an economist, political writer, and 
translator of many works in English, gives the following account 
of domestic relations chez Mme. Helvetius. 5 

The society of Mme. Helvetius was then formed, in addition to 
myself, of two men of letters residing in her house and living with 
her in a great intimacy. One of them, the abb de la Roche, was 
an ex-Benedictine, whom Helvetius had after a fashion secularized, 
... a man of sense and moderated wit, attached to Helvetius by 
gratitude. . . . The other man of letters . . . was M. de Cabanis, 
a young man of between twenty-one and twenty-two years when she 
became acquainted with him. He was the son of a bourgeois of 


Brives-la-Gaillarde, for whom Turgot had conceived esteem and 
confidence. The young man, gifted with a pleasing countenance 
and much spirit and talent, had also won Turgot's esteem. Mme. 
Helvtius had seen him at Turgot's home and participated in the 
interest he caused everyone to evince. . . . The abb6, Cabanis and 
I lived together under the same roof for more than fifteen years 
without having the slightest altercation. I loved them both, the 
abb< de la Roche less than Cabanis, but I had for the latter a real 
esteem and a tender friendship. If the difference of age did not 
allow him to share this sentiment, he discharged it at least, I be- 
lieve, with some benevolence and even some esteem. We lived very 
peaceably with the same friend, who did not exhibit for any one 
of the three, a preference which would have displeased the other 

The household must indeed have enjoyed an idyllic existence, 
especially when Franklin came to visit. The abb de la Roche, 
in a letter to Franklin after the latter's return to America, revived 
nostalgic memories. "We were indeed happy when we found 
ourselves together around a good luncheon table; we discoursed 
of morality, of politics, and of philosophy; our Lady of Auteuil 
excited your coquetry, and the abb6 Morellet wrangled over the 
cream, and ushered his arguments in order to prove what we 
did not believe; then we would have gladly renounced the other 
paradise in order to conserve this one and live as we were during 
all of an eternity." 6 

In explaining the attraction that Mme. Helvetius exerted over 
"statesmen, philosophers, historians, poets, and men of learning 
of all sorts," Franklin remarked in a letter to that lady, "we find 
in your sweet society that charming benevolence, that amiable 
attention to oblige, that disposition to please and be pleased, 
which we do not always find in the society of one another. It 
springs from you; it has its influence on us all, and in your com- 
pany we are not only pleased with you, but better pleased with 
one another and with ourselves." 7 This was presumably written 
early in their acquaintance. Franklin eventually grew bolder, for 
shortly before the writing of his first bagatelle to Mme. Helvetius, 
he sent her a brief message by Cabanis in which he remarked in 
the third person: "If that Lady likes to pass her Days with him; 
he in turn would like to pass his Nights with her; & as he has 
already given her many of his days, though he has so few left to 


give, she appears ungrateful never to have given him a single one 
of her nights, which steadily pass as a pure loss, without giving 
happiness to anyone except Poupon." 8 

The same impartiality that Mme. Helvetius exhibited toward 
her house guests, she revealed in regard to Franklin and Turgot, 
both of whom became seriously enamored and proposed mar- 
riage. The two bagatelles that Franklin addressed to Mme. Hel- 
v^tius concern his matrimonial proposal. The light facetious 
tone in which they are composed creates the impression that 
Franklin was only semi-serious in his propositionsthat they had 
been extended in a spirit of gallantry, but a letter from Turgot 
to du Pont de Nemours suggests that Franklin wrote them in 
order to allay the emotional turbulences to which his declaration 
had given rise and to pass off his own declaration as a form of 
complimentary address that he had no reason to conceal from 
the world. Turgot, although a rival for the hand of the same 
lady, with whom he enjoyed no greater romantic success than had 
Franklin, succeeded in remaining on closest terms of friendship 
with both Franklin and Mme. Helvetius. His main concern was 
to restore harmony, exactly what Franklin was attempting to do 
with his bagatelles. "I have seen," Turgot wrote to du Pont de 
Nemours, "one of our friends [Mme. Helvetius] whom I have 
found in a rather bad condition. Her tranquillity has been con- 
stantly disturbed and always by the same follies, I shall tell you 
all that when I see you again. She has decided to leave to spend 
the summer with a relative at Tours and to take her eldest 
daughter. She will establish herself in the country in order to 
occupy herself exclusively with her daughter in order to forget, 
if she can, all the worry with which she has been tormented. I 
find this resolution very reasonable and very proper, not only 
for her own tranquillity, but also to reestablish it in the other 
head [Franklin's] which is agitated so improperly.'* 9 

Franklin's proposal of marriage probably caused Mme. Helv&- 
tius' agitation. On the evening following an earlier proposal, 
Franklin had written a letter to Mme. Helvetius, which he later 
printed as a bagatelle with the title, "The Elysian Fields." 10 
After hearing her "barbarous resolution" to remain single for 
the rest of her life, Franklin returned to his home and dreamed 
that he was in the Elysian Fields. Learning that Socrates and 


Helvtius were close at hand, he asked to be allowed to speak 
to the latter, who, delighted to see his old friend, asked a host 
of questions concerning politics and social life, but said not a 
word about his former wife. Noticing Franklin's surprise, Helv- 
tius explained that in order to find happiness in paradise one 
must forget the past; he had, therefore, taken another wife, one 
closely resembling his former spouse. Franklin then remarked 
that Mme. Helv^tius possessed a much more faithful spirit since 
she had been known to refuse many offers, including his own. 
Helvtius expressed regret for Franklin's lack of success and sug- 
gested that the lady might change her mind if Franklin could 
persuade the abb Morellet to speak in his behalf and the abbe 
de la Roche to speak against him. At that moment the new Mme. 
Helvtius entered upon the scene, and Franklin recognized her 
as his own former American wife. When Franklin advanced to 
greet her, she responded coolly, "I was a good wife to you for 
nearly fifty years be satisfied with that. I have now found a new 
connection which will last throughout eternity." Indignant at 
this refusal, Franklin resolved to return to earth and again to 
seek out Mme. Helvtius. Cryptically he ended his tale, "Here 
I am. Let us avenge ourselves.'* 

It is hardly likely that Franklin intended this for general cir- 
culation, yet in April, 1780, presumably just after its composition, 
Grimm included the work without comment in his Gorrespon- 
dance litteraire, giving it the title "Lettre de M. Franklin i Ma- 
dame Helv&ius." " It was printed again by the abbe Morellet 
in his Memoires^ The second bagatelle addressed to Mme. Hel- 
vtius, an address of the flies in Franklin's apartment to those in 
the apartment of Mme. Helvtius, in which they suggest among 
other things that the two societies be made into one household, 
was not published until modern times. 13 

Presumably these letters or other influences softened Mme. 
Helvtius, for in 1784 she shocked Mrs. John Adams by her 
amorous behavior. The latter's description of Mme. Helv&ius 
and Franklin has become a classic. 14 

She entered the room with a careless, jaunty air; upon seeing ladies 
who were strangers to her, she bawled out, "Ah! mon Dieu, where 
is Franklin? Why did you not tell me there were ladies here?" You 
must suppose her speaking all this in French. "How I look!" said 


she, taking hold of a chemise made of tiffany, which she had on 
over a blue lutestring, and "which looked as much upon the decay 
as her beauty, for she was once a handsome woman; her hair was 
frizzled; over it she had a small straw hat, with a dirty gauze half- 
handkerchief behind. She had a black gauze scarf thrown over her 
shoulders. She ran out of the room; when she returned, the Doctor 
entered at one door, she at the other; upon which she ran forward 
to him, caught him by the hand, "Helas! Franklin"; then gave him 
a double kiss one upon each cheek, and another upon his forehead. 
When we went into the room to dine, she was placed between the 
Doctor and Mr. Adams. She carried on the chief of the conversation 
at dinner, frequently locking her hand into the Doctor's, and some- 
times spreading her arm upon the backs of both the gentlemen's 
chairs, then throwing her arm carelessly upon the Doctor's neck. 
I should have been greatly astonished at this conduct, if the good 
Doctor had not told me that in this lady I should see a genuine 
Frenchwoman, wholly free from affectation of stiffness of behavior, 
and one of the best women in the world. For this I must take the 
Doctor's word; but I should have set her down for a very bad one, 
although sixty years of age, and a widow. I own I was highly dis- 
gusted, and never wish for an acquaintance with ladies of this cast. 
After dinner she threw herself on a settee, where she showed more 
than her feet. She had a little lap-dog, who was, next to the Doctor, 
her favorite. This she kissed, and when he wet the floor she wiped 
it up with her chemise. This is one of the Doctor's most intimate 
friends, with whom he dines once every week, and she with him. 

Mme. Brillon also engaged in public exhibitions of affection 
toward Franklin. Even her compatriots, she wrote to Franklin, 
had "the audacity to criticize my pleasant habit of sitting upon 
your knees, and yours of always asking me for what I refuse." 15 
At the time of their meeting, Mme. Brillon was thirty-six years 
old. In writing about her to a friend, Franklin explained that 
he spent one evening twice a week at her home. "She has, among 
other elegant accomplishments, that of an excellent musician; 
and, with her daughters who sing prettily, and some friends who 
play, she kindly entertains me and my grandson with little con- 
certs, a cup of tea, and a game of chess. I call this my Opera, 
for I rarely go to the Opera at Paris." 16 

Most of the bagatelles for Mme. Brillon, like the two sent to 
Mme. Hdv6tius, were written in French, and both Mme. Brillon 
and the abb6 Morellet corrected Franklin's grammar. Some of 
the bagatelles may actually be considered exercises in writing a 


foreign tongue. Mme. Brillon, to encourage her pupil, often 
praised the sparkle and fluency of his French phrases. Referring 
to his "Dialogue between the Gout and Mr. Franklin" she wrote, 
"the corrector of your French spoiled your work. Believe me, 
leave your works as they are, use words that say things, and laugh 
at grammarians, who by their purity, weaken all your sentences. 
If I had a good enough head, I would compose a terrible diatribe 
against those who dare to re-touch you, were it l'Abb6 de la 
Roche, my neighbor Veillard, etc. etc. etc." 17 Franklin, in a letter 
to Mme. Brillon of which only a manuscript abstract remains 
today, thanked Mme. Brillon for her encouragement, but com- 
plained of his difficulties in composition. 18 "Vous m'enhardissez 
tant par 1'accueil favorable que vous accordez mes Epitres si 
mal Writes, qu'il me prend envie de vous en envoyer une que 
j'ai esquissee il y a deux semaines; mais que je n'ai pas finie, 
parce que je n'avoit pas le terns de chercher le dictionnaire pour 
regler les masculines et les feminins & ni la Grammaire pour les 
modes et les tens, il y a 60 ans que les choses masculines et femi- 
nines (hors des modes et des terns) m'ont donn beaucoup d'em- 
baras. j'esperoit autrefois qu'i 80, je pouvois en tre delivre. me 
voici a 4 fois 19, ce qui en est bien prs. nanmoins ces feminines 
fran^aises me tracassent encore, cela me doit rendre plus content 
d'aller en Paradis, oft Ton dit que ces distinctions seront abolies." 
In answer to this or a similar letter Mme. Brillon protested 
against his opinion that he wrote French badly. 19 "To make an 
academic discourse, one must be a good grammarian; but to write 
to our friends all we need is a heart, and you combine with the 
best heart, when you wish, the soundest moral teaching, a lively 
imagination, and that droll roguishness which shows that the 
wisest of men allows his wisdom to be perpetually broken against 
the rocks of femininity." 

The correspondence between Franklin and Mme. Brillon is 
filled with allusions, which from one point of view may be de- 
scribed as those of gayety and gallantry, but from another as 
serious amorous proposals. No one but Franklin himself can be 
sure of their real intention. The bagatelles written for Mme. 
Brillon, however, reveal a consistently high moral tone; indeed, 
if they have a fault, it is in their excessive didacticism. 

Since some of them are not dated, their chronology is uncer- 


tain. "The Ephemera," which seems to be the earliest, was writ- 
ten in 1778 to ridicule the dispute then raging between the dis- 
ciples of Gluck and Piccini over the relative merits of their 
music. 20 In order to illustrate the insignificance of the controversy 
as well as the negligible importance of all other human concerns, 
Franklin ironically describes a solemn discourse delivered by an 
ephemeron on the brevity of life and the vanity of moral desires. 
He laments that the "present race of ephemerae will in a course 
of minutes become corrupt, like those of other and older bushes, 
and consequently as wretched. . . . Alas! art is long, and life is 
short." In a letter to a friend about "The Ephemera," Franklin 
remarked that the "thought was partly taken from a little piece 
of some unknown writer, which I met with fifty years since in a 
newspaper, and which the sight of the Ephemera brought to my 
recollection." 21 This little piece is an essay in Franklin's Penn- 
sylvania Gazette (December 4, 1735) in which an insect discourses 
on his long life of twelve hours, a span longer than that of any 
others of his kind. In his dying breath, he asserts that the private 
misfortunes of existence have taught him that "no happiness can 
be secure or lasting which is placed in things that are out of our 
power." For many years students of Franklin have assumed that 
he was the author of this piece, but I have recently discovered 
that he took it from an English periodical published in 17 ig. 22 
Since the text of "The Ephemera" in every edition of Frank- 
lin's work is based on either the Passy or the W. T. Franklin 
printed versions, no critics have discussed a contemporary manu- 
script text entitled "Lettre de M. Franklin a Mme Brillon," which 
specifically names Mme. Brillon as Franklin's inspiration. 23 In the 
printed texts, Franklin in his own character concludes, "To me, 
after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures now remain, but 
the reflection of a long life spent in meaning well, the sensible 
conversation of a few good lady ephemerae, and now and then 
a kind smile and a tune from the ever amiable Brillante." In 
the French manuscript, this is rendered the "toujours aimable 
Brillon." The first text given to the public (in the Journal de 
Paris, 12 avril 1786) is neither that of Passy nor that of the manu- 
script. It concludes: "Pour moi, aprfes tant de recherches actives, 
il ne me reste de bien rels, que la satisfaction d'avoir passd ma 
vie dans I'intention d'etre utile, la conversation aimable d'un 


petit nombre de bonnes dames phmferes, & de terns en terns le 
doux sourire & quelques accords du piano forte de Mme B . . ." 

Next to love-making and moralizing, Franklin seems to have 
devoted his leisure time to playing chess, a pastime he often 
shared with Mme. Brillon. For this reason he felt that his baga- 
telle, "The Morals of Chess," should have been dedicated to her. 
The best advice that it contained, he said, had been modelled 
after her generous and magnanimous manner of playing, which 
Franklin had often witnessed. 24 The work, which is of interest 
to few besides devotees of the game, consists of two parts a list 
of the desirable mental qualities said to be developed by the 
game and a list of rules to enable the participants to derive the 
maximum pleasure from playing. Franklin's disciple, Dr. Du- 
bourg, dissented on the value of chess and prepared a companion 
piece in which he pointed out the adverse effects of the game 
and refuted the fallacy that the problems of chess resemble the 
problems of daily living. On June 28, 1779, Dubourg wrote to 
Franklin that he was preparing a translation of "The Morals of 
Chess" for publication in the Journal de Paris along with his own 
remarks, but neither piece appeared in that periodical. 25 

Mme. Brillon served as direct inspiration for another of Frank- 
lin's bagatelles, "Dialogue between Mr. Franklin and the Gout." 2e 
Since both Franklin and M. Brillon, a plump, agreeable gentle- 
man, suffered from the malady, Mme. Brillon had undoubtedly 
endured much conversation on the subject, inspiring her to pro- 
duce some brief verses dedicated to Franklin, entitled "Le Sage 
et la Goutte." Franklin responded with his dialogue, in which 
the personified gout rebukes Franklin for his sedentary habits. 

Toward the end of 1779, Franklin presented to Mme. Brillon 
another bagatelle, "The Whistle," the theme of which he had 
used twenty years previously in America. This also was directly 
inspired by a letter from Mme. Brillon, a point that editors of 
the piece have strangely neglected. In a serious letter to Franklin 
on November i, 1779, she developed the theme that because of 
the uncertainty of mortal happiness, only the thought of a future 
life can enable us to bear the trials of this one. This concept led 
to a description of the anticipated joys of paradise. 27 

We shall there live on roasted apples only; the music will be com- 
posed of Scotch airs; all parties will be given over to chess, so 


that no one may be disappointed; every one will speak the same 
language^ the English will be neither unjust nor wicked there; the 
women will not be coquettes, the men will be neither jealous nor 
too gallant; ''King John" will be left to eat his apples in peace; 
perhaps he will be decent enough to offer some to his neighbours 
who knows? since we shall want for nothing in paradise! We shall 
never suffer from gout there nor from our nerves. 

Franklin, in replying, approved of the conclusion that "we should 
draw all the Good we can from this world," but warned against 
false valuations that keep us from drawing more good and suf- 
fering less evil from life than might otherwise be our lot. 28 To 
illustrate these false valuations, Franklin told a story of his child- 
hood. When only seven years old, friends of the family had filled 
his pockets with halfpence. Proceeding to a neighboring toy shop, 
he met another boy on the way who charmed him with the sound 
of a whistle. Franklin emptied his pockets on the spot for the 
whistle and returned to his home, happy over his purchase. His 
family then pointed out that he had paid four times as much as 
the whistle was worth, and taunted him by naming the good 
things he could otherwise have bought with the rest of the money. 
This served as a lesson that lasted throughout his life, for when- 
ever he was tempted to buy an unneeded object, he said to him- 
self, "Do not give too much for the whistle." As he grew in ex- 
perience he encountered a number of men who had given too 
much for their whistle court sycophants, popularity-seekers, 
misers, and men of pleasure. A great part of the miseries of man- 
kind had been "brought upon them by the false estimates they 
had made of the value of things." 

Although the letter to Mme. Brillon may have been the first 
version of "The Whistle" to be printed, we learn through an- 
other French source, the "Notice concerning Benjamin Franklin" 
by Cabanis, that he had told the story several years earlier to his 
son, William Franklin. 29 When the latter had solicited at the 
British court the post of royal governor of New Jersey, Franklin 
warned him against his incipient aristocratic tendencies, which 
later led him to embrace the Tory side during the American 
Revolution. "Think of what the whistle may one day cost you," 
Franklin said to his son. "Why not become a joiner or wheel- 
wright, if the estate I leave you is not enough? The man who 


lives by his labor is at least free." In telling the story to the Passy 
circle, Franklin added that his son had been infatuated with the 
title of excellency; he had been ashamed to resemble his father. 
The abb de la Roche remarked that Franklin himself owed to 
his childhood experience with the whistle his lifelong power to 
reject everything that does not directly lead to the true pleasure 
of a rational mind. 80 

The last of the bagatelles associated with Mme. Brillon is "The 
Handsome and the Deformed Leg," a rather heavy didactic piece 
of little intrinsic interest. 31 Contrasting the optimistic with the 
pessimistic view of life, Franklin points out that there are some 
people who see the good in every situation, others who see only 
the bad. This turn of mind, he believes, is not founded in nature, 
but comes from observation and imitation of others; because of 
it the pessimists make disagreeable companions, inconvenient as- 
sociates. An old philosophical friend of Franklin's had a deformed 
leg that he used as an instrument to detect this unpleasing dispo- 
sition in strangers if the stranger regarded his ugly leg rather 
than his handsome one or made any comment on it, the philoso- 
pher decided to have nothing more to do with him. In conclusion, 
Franklin advises these "critical, querulous, discontented unhappy 
People" that, if they wish to be respected by others or gain hap- 
piness for themselves, they "should leave off looking at the ugly 
Leg." It may be purely coincidental, but an Italian diplomat, 
Caracciolo, who represented the court of Naples in London dur- 
ing the period of Franklin's sojourn and who resided in Paris 
during Franklin's residence there, possessed a sound and a de- 
formed leg exactly as described by Franklin. The abb Galiani, 
reporting the return of Caracciolo to Naples in 1781, wrote, "He 
is in excellent condition in his whole body with the exception of 
a certain left leg, which is of an extremely ungainly architecture 
and quite different from the right leg. Despite this faulty archi- 
tecture, the edifice may still last many more years." 32 Caracciolo 
was known as a philosopher, and numbered many illustrious for- 
eigners among his acquaintance, including d'Alembert and all the 
mathematicians of his time. 33 It is quite possible that Franklin 
knew him and used him as the model for his essay. Although pub- 
lished by Castera in 1798, this piece seems not to have had any 
influence in France. Even less well known is the Rabelaisian "To 


the Royal Academy of Brussels," which has never been printed 
in French perhaps because many of its puns cannot be trans- 
lated. 84 

Two other pieces that Franklin printed on his Passy press have 
antecedents quite different from the other bagatelles. One of 
these, "Remarks concerning the Savages of North America," 
which grew out of a work in the Ephemerides du citoyen, I have 
discussed in the first chapter. The other, "Information to Those 
Who Would Remove to America," requires little comment since 
it has no apparent previous or subsequent French literary con- 
nections. Both tracts stem from Franklin's letter to Peter Collin- 
son, May 9, 1753, in which he discusses the racial characteristics 
of Indians and Germans in Pennsylvania. 35 In the "Remarks" 
Franklin repeated an anecdote concerning the Indian attitude 
toward education; in "Information to Those Who Would Re- 
move to America" he continued the discussion o the amount of 
labor required for subsistence or prosperity in America. The let- 
ter to Collinson suggests that there are a number of inherently 
lazy groups, who subsist with little or no labor. The "Informa- 
tion" makes it clear that hard work and industry are indispen- 
sable. Verbal relations are seen in his efforts to reproduce dialect 
in the letter to Collinson in which a Transylvania Tartar dis- 
courses on labor: "God make Man for Paradise, he make him to 
live Lazy; Man make God angry, God turns Mm Out of Paradise, 
and bid work. Man no love work, he want to go to Paradise again, 
he want to live Lazy; So all Mankind love Lazy/* The "Informa- 
tion" presents a Negro's views: "Boccarorra (meaning the White 
men) make de black man workee, make de Horse workee, make 
de Ox workee, make ebery ting workee; only de Hog. He, de 
Hog, no workee; he eat, he drink, he walk about, he go to sleep 
when he please, he libb like a Gentleman." 

This work, the theme of which is that America is a desirable 
habitat only for those who work hard, Franklin wrote because of 
the incessant demands he received in Paris for information about 
America demands that were usually accompanied with requests 
for the granting of special rights or privileged positions or for 
financial assistance in making the journey. For certain periods 
nearly one letter in ten that Franklin received in Paris contained 
a request for aid in emigration. Franklin had neither the authority 


nor the desire to grant special concessions, and he composed his 
tract to discourage solicitation. As he wrote to Charles Thomson, 
President of Congress (March 9, 1784), "I am pestered contin- 
ually with numbers of letters from people in different parts of 
Europe, who would go to settle in America, but who manifest 
very extravagant expectations, such as I can by no means encour- 
age, and who appear otherwise to be very improper persons." S6 
To save himself trouble he proposed to send out copies of his 
"Information" in answer to soliciting letters. 

Some of the petitioners for financial aid proposed in return to 
serve in the American forces; others sent original poems, and one 
even offered his prayers. A certain prior wrote that he had re- 
cently lost a considerable sum at gambling and begged Franklin 
to aid him but to keep his secret and guard his reputation, his 
only treasure. On the letter Franklin noted, "Wants me to pay 
his gaming debts, and he will pray for success to our cause." 37 A 
lady of the court sent him a young man with the following letter 
of recommendation: "If you have in your country the secret of 
reforming a detestable creature who is the chief torment of his 
family, I beg of you to send over the bearer of this letter. You 
will be performing a miracle worthy of yourself." 3S The young 
man was accepted, fought courageously, and was killed in battle. 
Returning to Franklin's bagatelles, we shall consider the two 
that seem to have attracted the greatest amount of attention in 
France. One of these, entitled simply "Conte," was written in 
French. Like the "Dialogue between Mr. Franklin and the Gout," 
"The Ephemera," and "The Elysian Fields," all printed English 
versions of the "Conte" are translations by hands other than 
Franklin's. The following translation is my own. 

There was an officer, a man of virtue, named Montresor, who 
was seriously ill. His curate, believing that he was going to die, 
advised him to make his peace with God in order to be received 
in Paradise. "I have not much anxiety on this subject," said Mon- 
tresor, "for last night I had a vision which has given me complete 
tranquillity." "What vision did you have?" asked the good priest. 
"I was at the gate of Heaven," replied Montresor, "with a crowd 
of people who wanted to enter. And St. Peter asked each one what 
his religious profession was. One replied, "I am Roman Catholic" 
"Very well," said St. Peter, "enter and take your place among the 
Catholics." Another said that he was of the Anglican church. "Very 


well," said St. Peter, "enter and take your place among the An- 
glicans." Another said that he was a Quaker. "Enter," said St. Peter, 
"and take your place among the Quakers." Finally my turn com- 
ing, he asked me what my religion was. "Alas!" I replied, "unfor- 
tunately the poor James Montresor has none." "That is too bad," 
said the Saint, "I do not know where to put you; but enter any- 
way; and find a place where you can." 

The fact that this version (in French) was printed by Franklin 
would seem to give it authority as the accepted text. There exists, 
however, a manuscript version (also in French) in a contempo- 
rary hand that, in addition to a number of very minor verbal dif- 
ferences, has a more appropriate conclusion and may represent 
Franklin's second thought. 39 In this version St. Peter says at the 
end, "Enter anyway and take any place you wish." The ending of 
the Passy version actually has little point; that of the manuscript, 
however, forcibly presents Franklin's principle that sectarian dif- 
ferences have little significance in judging the virtue of a human 

Another version, almost identical with the manuscript, except 
that the conclusion is amplified, had at least three separate print- 
ings in Paris during the eighteenth century. This version ap- 
peared as a note to Les Jardins de Betz, poeme accompagne de 
notes instructive* sur les travaux champetres, sur les arts, les lois, 
les revolutions, la noblesse, le clerge, &c. fait en 1785, par M. 
Cerutti, et public en 1792. Before it appeared in book form, 
Cerutti printed a long section of the poem concerning the inde- 
pendence of America, including Franklin's apologue, in his peri- 
odical La Feuille Villageoise (February 9, 1792). It was then re- 
printed a few days later by Brissot in Le Patriote Frangois, a peri- 
odical of much wider circulation. 40 It would seem, therefore, that 
this bagatelle had the greatest contemporary vogue of any of 
Franklin's French pieces printed at Passy. The amplified conclu- 
sion in the version published by Cerutti was probably the latter's 
own work. (We have already seen how he improved upon Bon- 
homme Richard.) His additions emphasize the principle that it 
was Montresor's benevolence and good works rather than reli- 
gious faith that gained his admission to heaven. 

Enfin il m*a demand^ de quelle religion j'etois. Helas! ai-je r^pondu, 
je n'en ai point d'autre que la loi naturelle et I'amour au genre 


humain: le Saint reflchit un instant, ensuite il me dit: Entrez 
toujours et placez-vous oti vous voudrez. 

In the body of the poem, Cerutti, a former Jesuit priest, de- 
scribes a benevolent inhabitant of a small village, a French equiv- 
alent of Alexander Pope's Man of Ross. The author explains in 
a note that after the man's death he had conversed about him 
with the village curate, who, after uttering some conventional 
phrases appropriate for a funeral elegy, began to censure the de- 
ceased humanitarian. After several questions, the author discov- 
ered that the curate's bitterness was due to the fact that the phi- 
losopher had been an atheist and the curate had failed to con- 
vert him. To confute the priest, Cerutti drew from his pocket 
Franklin's apologue, which he describes as "the work of Franklin, 
this divine man whom the oracle of Delphos would have named 
with Socrates as the sage of the universe." Franklin's "Conte" 
was published by Renouard in 1795 and again in 1798 by Cas- 
tera. The latter edition includes also an "imitation heureuse" in 
verse by "citoyen Parny," in which version, six men present them- 
selves at the doors of heaven. These include a Mohammedan, a 
Jew, a Lutheran, a Quaker, a Catholic, and a man of no religion. 
According to Parny's view of the Quakers* heaven, they form a 
club where they smoke and wear their hats. Parny's man without 
a church, unlike Franklin's, specifically acknowledges belief in an 
immortal soul and a God who bestows recompense and punish- 

It was Cerutti who publicized in France another Franklin baga- 
telle on religious toleration, "A Parable Against Persecution." Al- 
though printed on the Passy press as were the works previously 
discussed, the "Parable" was originally written in English and 
published as early as 1759, many years before Franklin's residence 
in Passy. 41 This piece Franklin appparently used as an exercise 
to improve his French, since there are five separate manuscripts 
available in French, one of them with the notation at the end, 
"Exercise No. 7 / Abraham / corrige*." 42 It is Franklin's only in 
its style, for the substance of the piece had appeared a century 
earlier in a parable of Jeremy Taylor. In England Franklin had 
used the piece, a parody of Biblical language, as a literary hoax. 
He was accustomed to reading the "Parable" aloud from an open 
Bible and asking his guests to distinguish the genuine Biblical 


extracts from his imitation. Franklin's parable concerns the wrath 
of Abraham against a traveler whom he had first received into 
his tent and then had driven out after the stranger had refused 
to worship God. At midnight the Lord appeared to Abraham and 
rebuked him on the grounds that since He had borne with the 
man's obstinacy and rebellion for 198 years, Abraham should have 
been able to bear with him for a single night. 

Cerutti considered this as an object lesson against religious 
fanaticism and the sectarian spirit. He told his readers in La 
Feuille Villageoise^ therefore, that in Pennsylvania Franklin had 
struggled particularly against the prejudices of fanaticism, "which 
he regarded as a devouring weed which desiccated the field of 
public liberty and prevented the sound grain of liberty from 
germinating and taking root. According to Franklin, an eternal 
servitude will be the lot of any people which wastes time in trans- 
gressing conscience, in contending for vain differences of creed 
or ritual. Any man who bears malice toward his neighbor for 
not worshipping in the same church as he, is better equipped 
to be a deacon than a citizen." 4S Cerutti explained, not quite 
accurately, that Franklin's "Parable" arose out of the quarrels 
of nonconformists in Pennsylvania and that Franklin wished to 
show that between two sects, the more impious is the least toler- 
ant and that God prefers a heretic to a persecutor. 

While no other light pieces that Franklin printed on his Passy 
press have come down to the present, there are at least two others 
he wrote during his sojourn in France that have equal right with 
any of the pieces so far discussed to the title of bagatelles. The 
most brilliant and witty of all he sent to the Journal de Paris, 
where it was actually published under the pseudonym, Un 
A bonne. In the character of the Journal de Paris and its editors 
lies the only clue to Franklin's purpose in writing the piece. 

The Journal de Paris had been founded in 1779 by Antoine- 
Alexis-Fran^ois Cadet de Vaux, a well-meaning and conscientious 
pharmacist and chemist. Cadet mentioned Franklin frequently in 
the Journal de Paris, always with great respect. In July, 1779, he 
reported, for example, that Franklin had attended a lecture- 
demonstration of electrical principles at the College of Mazarin, 
describing with rapture the effect of Franklin's distinguished 
presence upon students and teacher. The theologian-scientist 


who conducted the experiments "saw in his person only the 
prince of natural philosophy. The enthusiasm with which he was 
received by the students of this college demonstrates the vivid 
impression which the sight of a great man can produce upon the 
sensitive imagination of youth." 

Cadet de Vaux was a specialist in the culinary arts as well as 
in pharmacy, chemistry, and journalism, and he held the official 
title, "Professor of Baking," at an institution that he conducted 
with a colleague, Pannentier. The government at the time was 
seeking a method of substituting coal for wood as domestic fuel, 
and Cadet de Vaux, as part of the research effort, was conducting 
experiments in baking bread with the new fuel. Franklin had de- 
signed a special stove for this purpose, a diagram of which he 
had sent to Cadet, who hoped that he could persuade Franklin 
to write some observations on his experiments and an explana- 
tion of the stove, which Cadet hoped to edit. He accordingly 
wrote a letter to Vergennes, secretary of state (March 28, 1783), 
asking him to use his influence to prevail upon Franklin to un- 
dertake the project. 44 A year later Cadet was still exhorting Frank- 
lin to undertake research on the stove. Franklin wrote from Passy 
(February 5, 1784) to say that he could not leave Paris at the 
moment, but sent Cadet some bread baked on his stove. 45 The 
letter is here printed in full, not only because it has never before 
been published, but because it illustrates Franklin's ability in 
French composition. The manuscript shows no sign of having 
been corrected by another hand and it is doubtful that Franklin 
would have considered this letter important enough to have made 
a preliminary draft. 

Malgre tout le desir que J'ai, Monsieur, de faire quelque Chose 
qui puisse vous etre agreable ainsi qu'a M. Votre Frere, II m'est 
absoluement impossible de faire le voyage de Paris dans Ce mo- 
ment cy; ma Maladie, et la saison vigoureuse sont des obstacles 
insunnontables pour moi. 

J'ai moi meme fait executer un Poele Chemin^e propre bruler 
le Charbon de Terre telle que M. le Noir a paru desirer que je fis 
connoitre dans ce Pays cy. Je serai charm de vous le montrer quand 
vos Affaires vous pennettront de venir Passy: Je ne puis encore 
en faire tin Usage habituel faute de Charbon de Terre. Si vous 
pouvez m'en procurer vous me ferez grand Plaisir. 


J'ai regu dans le Terns La Farine de Bled de Turquie, que vous 
avez eu la complaisance de me faire venir et pour la quelle Je 
vous suis redevable-Je vous envoye par le Porteur un Echantillon 
de Pain fait en Partie avec cette Farine, mais Je crois qu'il seroit 
possible de le faire meilleur. Je vous envoye la Recette pour le 
faire Si vous jugerez a propos d'en faire faire 1'Essaye a 1'Ecole du 

Franklin continued to correspond with Cadet on the subject of 
bread and the materials for baking it. On April 28, 1785, he sent 
him an informative essay, "Observations on Maize or Indian 
Corn," which Cadet published in the Journal de Paris, Febru- 
ary 17, 1786, under the heading "Economic." * 6 This essay gives 
a complete summary of the many forms in which nutriment for 
human consumption may be extracted from maize eleven, to be 
exact, including corn bread. 

From these facts we can draw the conclusion that a feature of 
the Journal de Paris was the publication of utilitarian articles on 
nutrition and other domestic concerns. The periodical, in addi- 
tion to news and belles lettres, regularly published articles of 
practical usefulness and household hints, some of these appearing 
under the heading of "Economic." Franklin's bagatelle, which ap- 
peared in the same category, is obviously a gentle parody of this 
type of article. The title it bears in English, "An Economical 
Project," is really not a title at all, but merely a feature heading 
from the Journal de Paris. In keeping with the tone of articles 
on popular science, Franklin describes a gathering at which an 
oil lamp newly-invented by Quinquet and Lange had been intro- 
duced. Although the lamp was capable of producing a splendid 
light, a number of the spectators asked whether the expense of 
the oil it consumed might not outweigh the increased brilliance 
of the light. Franklin was pleased to see this general concern for 
economy; going home and to bed several hours after midnight, 
he continued thinking on the subject. He was awakened at six 
in the morning by an accidental noise, surprised to see the room 
filled with light. At first thinking that a number of the new lamps 
had been brought in, he discovered that the light came through 
the window. After looking into the almanacs, he repeated the 
experiment on the three following mornings and came to the 


amazing conclusion that the sun rises every day at that hour and 
that it gives light as soon as it rises. He then realized that if he 
had not made this discovery, he would have slept six additional 
hours each day during the sunlight and paid for it by six hours 
of candlelight, a much more expensive form of illumination. 
Motivated by his love for economy, he calculated how much of a 
saving this would represent for him personally and in keeping 
with the burlesque spirit, multiplied his individual savings by 
the number of families in Paris. This produced an enormous 
sum, and so he suggested a number of measures to secure this 
saving for the municipality, including taxing shutters that would 
keep out the sun, restricting the number of candles permitted 
each household, restricting the passage of coaches after sunset, 
and ringing bells and setting off cannon at sunrise to awaken the 
citizens to their true interest. In conclusion he anticipated jeal- 
ous minds who might depreciate his discovery by charging that 
it was known to the ancients. Franklin admitted that their alma- 
nacs may have indicated the early rising of the sun, but it does 
not follow, he argued, "that they knew he gave light as soon as 
he rose" This was Franklin's contribution. 

The mild satire of this combined literary parody and moral 
parable resembles Swift's writings in a mellow mood. It is the 
type of irony Swift would have written in place of A Modest Pro- 
posal if he had spent five years in the company of Mmes. Hel- 
v6tius and Brillon. There is as much self-satire in the piece as 
there is social criticism. Not only is it a parody of some of Frank- 
lin's scientific and economic works, but it is also a reflection on 
his own habits. At Passy Franklin had been known to stay up 
all night playing chess until well after sunrise. 

The work appeared first in English in a periodical publication 
in 1788 and later in W. T. Franklin's edition. For some reason 
all modern editors, following A. H. Smyth, have given the piece 
an incorrect date/ 7 and Carl Van Doren, Franklin's biographer, 
remarks that Franklin did not print it in France. 48 The fact is, 
however, that it appeared in the Journal de Paris, where Frank- 
lin had sent it, April 5>6, 1784. Strangely enough it was reported 
in a later French periodical (La Decade Philosophique, 30 Fructi- 
dor, An III) that the letter had not been printed in the Journal 
de Paris because of some circumstances of the time. The writer 


added that since the piece suited perfectly the present epoch, he 
would print it from Franklin's own manuscript. 

Apparently Franklin did not himself compose the French ver- 
sion of this bagatelle as he had composed some of the others. 
Cast^ra, who printed a translation in 1798, remarked that the 
version in the Journal de Paris was also a translation and that 
his own was based on the original to which Franklin had sub- 
sequently made corrections and additions. 49 Castera's translation 
and that in La Decade Philosophique, although different, are cer- 
tainly based on the same English text. 

Contemporary response to Franklin's pleasantry was not uni- 
form. Although the editors of the Journal de Paris felt that it 
had missed its mark, at least one close associate of the journal was 
sufficiently amused to undertake an imitation. On the day follow- 
ing the publication of Franklin's letter, a scholar and well-known 
librarian, Mercier de Saint-Lger, submitted to the Journal de 
Paris a similar humorous letter in which he observed that the 
abonne had not mentioned that the sun gives not only light but 
heat as well and that the abonne could well have made similar 
calculations on the amount of fuel to be saved. 50 The editors re- 
jected this letter, which led Saint-Leger to note in a bibliography 
of his own works: 

Annee 1784. . . . Lettre au Journal de Paris sur la plaisanterie de 
Franklin, qui avait invit les Parisiens se lever avec le soleil. Non 
imprime, parce que cette plaisanterie n'avait pas russi, et que 
MM. du Journal ne voulaient pas la rappeler. 

Perhaps most surprising of all, the editors of the Journal de 
Paris in 1795 read Franklin's letter in La Decade Philosophique 
and reprinted it November 30, not realizing, or forgetting, that 
it had already appeared in their own journal in 1784. A few days 
later, December 3, a subscriber protested in two columns against 
this posthumous publication, conjecturing that Franklin in re- 
reading his letter had found it cold and insipid since so far as 
this author knew he had not sent it to the journal. Many peo- 
ple, this author affirmed, agreed with Franklin. "One is guilty 
of compromising the glory of illustrious men and at the same 
time betraying their intentions by publishing works which they 
themselves considered unworthy of their pens. 1 ' Finally, Decem- 


ber 9, Quinquet himself, inventor of the lamp, defended Frank- 
lin in arguing that he had been guilty neither of foolishness nor 
of a bad joke. Quinquet affirmed that he himself, unaware of 
Franklin's idea, had six months previously communicated similar 
views to several official bodies. Another periodical (Journal des 
patriotes de 89, December 2, 1795) jested on the date of the most 
recent publication of Franklin's letter. A writer who admitted 
that Franklin's advice might be sound felt, nevertheless, that the 
time of giving it had been poorly chosen. He found it incongru- 
ous "to invite people to get up early in the morning in order 
to save light in a season when at seven o'clock it is still dark." 

The last bagatelle associated with Franklin's French period is 
"A Petition of the Left Hand" addressed "To Those Who Have 
the Superintendency of Education." In all editions of Franklin's 
works this piece appears with the caption "date unknown." There 
seems to be evidence in the Journal de Paris, however, to show 
that Franklin composed it sometime in 1785, shortly before leav- 
ing France. In the piece, the left hand appeals to the friends 
of youth to rescue her from the prejudices that have blighted her 
existence. "There are twin sisters of us"; she says, "and the two 
eyes of man do not more resemble, nor are capable of being upon 
better terms with each other, than my sister and myself, were it 
not for the partiality of our parents, who make the most injurious 
distinction between us." In short, the left hand was considered 
an inferior being; her sister was given training in every accom- 
plishment whereas she was not only ignored, but rebuked or pun- 
ished if she attempted to take an active part. She appeals for 
equal treatment, not out of vanity but out of prudence, remind- 
ing her readers that if some accident befall her sister, both must 
perish from distress. "It is the practice in our family, that the 
whole business of providing for its subsistence falls upon my 
sister and myself. If any indisposition should attack my sister, and 
I mention it in confidence upon this occasion that she is subject 
to the gout, the rheumatism, and cramp, without making men- 
tion of other accidents, what would be the fete of our poor 

In the Journal de Paris of 1785 are two brief essays on exactly 
the same theme and written in parallel phraseology. Since the 
theme was not familiar or commonplace, it would seem that these 


essays are Franklin's source of inspiration. The first (May 31, 
1785) is a serious letter without Franklin's sprightliness, but there 
are a number of obvious parallels. 

... If the working hand is wounded or becomes infirm, frequent 
accidents in the mechanical professions, the unfortunate workman 
finds himself out of work and without resources. ... it is absurd 
stupidity to enforce upon children the use of one hand rather than 
the other; . . . the two hands have no preeminence between them; 
. . . they are two twin sisters to whom the same education is suited 
since they must face the same risks. 

A letter in a later issue (June 26, 1785) that this piece inspired 
reflects the same facetious tone as Franklin's petition. Indeed, it 
could very well have been written by Franklin. It is signed Un 
de vos Abonnes, almost the same pseudonym that Franklin used 
for his "An Economical Project." 

. . . For a long time people have been writing against the absurd 
practice of requiring children to use the right hand and making 
them almost inept in using the other, although Nature has ac- 
tually made us ambidextrous. Several mothers have so well realized 
the justice of these protests that they have risen above the ancient 
prejudice and no longer oppose this natural perfection. 

A lady of my acquaintance had so effectively accustomed her 
daughter to use her two hands indifferently that the child worked, 
sewed, and even wrote with the same facility with the left as with 
the right and without thinking that there was anything extraor- 
dinary in it. Circumstances required that this young girl be put 
into a boarding school for some months. She retained the use of 
her two hands, but her new teachers were scandalized at this de- 
formity; to reform her they used remonstrances and even penance, 
and succeeded so well that not only did the child lose the facility 
of using her left hand, but she felt embarrassment whenever she 
absent-mindedly used it for some exercise exclusively reserved for 
the right. 

... I remember, in closing my letter, a rather amusing sally. 
One day a child scolded for not using the right hand exclusively, 
being contradicted by his governess, gave her a brisk blow. The 
mother, who was present, instead of punishing him, said with a 
note of pedantry, "Oh dear, my son, always with the left hand! 
you are indeed incorrigible." 

Franklin's "Petition," like many of his other bagatelles, was 
published in France before the appearance of an English version. 
The first printing I have been able to trace is in an almanac of 


1787, Etrennes a I'humanite** It appeared ten years later in La 
Decade Philosophique.* 2 

Franklin himself in referring to his little pieces of wit and 
morality used the term bagatelles: the French more often classi- 
fied them as opuscules moraux (moral tracts). One of the most 
flattering French descriptions, published in the year of Franklin's 
death, emphasizes the copious originality of Franklin's mind re- 
vealed in these pieces. 53 "It is the naivet6 and finesse of La Fon- 
taine, it is the profundity and elevation of the Holy Scriptures 
and the oriental moralists, it is the concealed irony of Socrates 
without the prolix subtlety of Plato. Finally, it is the superior and 
indulgent spirit of a sage, who has judged man both in the rural 
frankness of the pioneer and in the artificial refinements of 
French politeness." 

A more pertinent summary of Franklin's satirical gift appears 
in a comment by the abb Morellet on all the productions of 
the Academy of Auteuil. Not Franklin alone, but Mme. Helv^tius, 
Mme. Brillon, and the abb Morellet, produced bagatelles for 
the enjoyment of the entire circle. Morellet wrote that his own 
are "in your own vein of pleasantry, and somewhat I conceive, in 
that of Swift, with rather less of his dark misanthropy. At any 
rate, Dr. Jonathan and Dr. Benjamin are the models on whom I 
have fixed my eyes; and perhaps Nature herself has given me 
something of the turn of both in the art of speaking the truth in 
a jesting way, or without seeming to speak it. The difficulty is, 
that one cannot laugh outright at every thing which is truly 
laughable.'* 54 According to this view, the Franklin of the baga- 
telles is a good-humored Swift a sound appraisal. 

Literary critics have failed to give due attention to the strong 
resemblances between Franklin's satirical works and Swift's. It is 
well known that Franklin in the prefaces to Poor Richard imi- 
tated Swift's Isaac Bickerstaff hoax, but many other parallels have 
gone unnoticed. In a work that has never been reprinted, for 
example, A Defence of the Rev. Mr. Hemphill's Observations, 
1735, Franklin paraphrases Swift's famous apologue of the spider 
and the bee. 

Yet Franklin seldom duplicated Swift's invective and savage 
indignation. His early satirical works are blunt, sometimes bitter, 
but during his residence at Passy, his pleasantries were warm and 


mellow. A bagatelle in the best tradition resembles "conversa- 
tion badinante et r&techie," a phrase applied to Franklin by one 
of the young girls whom he served as moral and philosophical 
mentor. 55 Whether considered as pert wisdom or sage persiflage, 
Franklin's bagatelles combine delight with moral truth, the em- 
phasis being upon delight. They are among the world's master- 
pieces of light literature. 

So far we have discussed the works of Franklin that have been 
influential in France or that have been heralded by French men 
of letters. We must add that the reverse process took place at least 
twice. In other words, two literary works by French authors were 
printed by Franklin because they expressed concepts that Frank- 
lin himself admired and wished to see promulgated. The first of 
these, a tract on morality and deism by his old friend Dr. Du- 
bourg, who envisaged it as a "digeste de Fhumanite," grew from 
a brief statement in the Mercure de France, 1768, concerning the 
relations between the individual and the creator and the devel- 
opment of social relations. Because of its deistical tendency Du- 
bourg was unable to publish an expanded version of his digest 
in France; and so in 1773 Franklin saw it through the press in 
London in both French and English editions. Here it bore the 
title Petit code de la raison humaine. Later in 1782 Franklin 
printed a still further enlarged version at his press in Passy. 56 
Dubourg dedicated his work to Franklin in a preface in which 
he indicated that Franklin himself had been the basic source of 
his ideas. 

You recognized in the first sketch of this Little Digest the simple 
and naive expression of your own heart. I have developed it as 
much as I am able, and I hope that you will perceive in it only 
the best of yourself. If I have expressed anything that is not quite 
exact, I hope you will condescend to rectify it. I have dedicated it 
to you in order to submit it to your judgment, having been for- 
tunate enough to find in you both a great master and a good friend. 
You are going to travel far away from this hemisphere,, and I can- 
not follow you in the other; but the immense ocean which you must 
cross will not separate the best parts of ourselves; our spirits will 
always be united, as they always have been; I do myself honor in 
publishing it and you need not blush to acknowledge it. You may 
have some disciples who are more noble, but you have no more 
faithful servant. 

B. D. 


If we proceed beyond this preface and analyze the moral and po- 
litical maxims that constitute the Petit code^ we cannot escape 
the conclusion that the work intimately reflects Franklin's wis- 
dom and personality. 

Kindred concepts appeared in the second French work pub- 
lished by Franklin in Passy, Conciliateur de toutes les nations de 
I 9 Europe, 1782, by Pierre Andr Gargaz. The author, an erst- 
while galley slave, had arrived at his ideas, however, without any 
influence whatsoever from Franklin. The story of this galley slave 
turned author, who succeeded in obtaining Voltaire and Frank- 
lin as literary patrons, is one of the most incredible and romantic 
of the entire century. 57 

Gargaz, a native of Theze in the former province of Dauphin^, 
was condemned, March 11, 1761, to a service of twenty years in 
the galleys after being flogged and branded. A former schoolmas- 
ter (regent d'ecole), he had been found guilty of assassination. 
Since die widow of the victim had been prosecuted at the same 
time, it would appear that Gargaz was involved in a "crime pas- 
sionneL" He stoutly protested his innocence, however, in letters 
to Franklin in 1779, three years before his release from the galley. 
At this time he begged Franklin to print two accompanying man- 
uscripts, which Franklin later endorsed "Project of universal 
peace by a galley slave." Three years previously Gargaz had writ- 
ten similar letters to Voltaire, who at the time had done more 
than Franklin to encourage the unfortunate conciliator. Franklin 
apparently took no notice of Gargaz' letters, whereas Voltaire 
wrote some verse for Gargaz in which, underscoring his hatred 
of tyrants, he expressed the hope that their trade would soon be 
supplanted by Gargaz' sublime notions of peace. 

Considering the cruel suffering and hardship associated with 
the lot of a galley slave, it is a matter of considerable astonish- 
ment that Gargaz was able to survive his twenty-year period of 
servitude. The distinguished historian A. Aulard has suggested 
that apart from the possibility that he may have had an unusu- 
ally hardy physique coupled with heroic will power, Gargaz may 
have served as secretary to the captain of his Galley, the Duchesse. 
The latter may also have been a man of letters and Gargaz may 
have convinced his masters of his innocence. The mere fact that 
the letters of Gargaz to Franklin and Voltaire reached their des- 


tination proves that he was a privileged character as does the 
fact that he had the opportunity to compose the two manuscripts 
he sent to Franklin and another that he actually had published in 
Marseilles in 1773, concerning a scheme for a phonetic alphabet. 

Some time after his release Gargaz succeeded in acquiring a 
modest income of nearly 150 crowns annually (18 pounds ster- 
ling), and in the summer of 1783 set off from the south of France 
with his manuscript to visit Franklin. Since he could not afford 
to ride, he walked every step of the way. He was shabby in ap- 
pearance; "all his dress together was not worth 55." Franklin took 
Gargaz' plan and read it, apparently not recalling his earlier let- 
ters. Impressed by the honest peasant's (Franklin's phrase) zeal 
for peace, Franklin immediately printed the manuscript and gave 
Gargaz as many copies as he desired. In a letter to David Hartley, 
Franklin wrote, "This man aims at no profit from his pamphlet 
or his project, asks for nothing, expects nothing, and does not 
even desire to be known. ... I honor much the character of 
this veritable philosopher 

In addition to their kindred notions of international peace, it 
is highly probable that in their interview the two philosopher 
discussed schemes for spelling reform and phonetic writing, a sub- 
ject on which Franklin also had written. In a work composed in 
1769, A Scheme for a New Alphabet and Reformed Mode of 
Spelling (published 1779), he had introduced a phonetic system 
very much like that of Gargaz, and as late as 1786 Franklin was 
still distributing copies of his reformed alphabet. 

After the printing of his Conciliateur, Gargaz wrote to Frank- 
lin on two occasions asking for assistance in obtaining recompense 
from the government. The French national archives have records 
of a number of formal requests by Gargaz for rehabilitation, but 
all were refused. In 1785 and 1786 he wrote again on the subject 
of his peace projects to Franklin's successor in Paris, Thomas 

A cursory survey of the eleven-page pamphlet of Gargaz will 
show why Franklin was willing to aid in promulgating his in- 
genious scheme. Basis of the plan was the establishment in Lyon, 
or a similar site, of a "perpetual Congress, composed of a medi- 
ator representing each sovereign of Europe and any of their 
neighbors who should wish to enter into this universal union." 


The following general rules were to prevail: As soon as ten sov- 
ereigns have joined, provided that at least five are representatives 
of hereditary monarchs, they will deliberate concerning all the 
disputes of their sovereign. The presiding officer will always be 
the mediator of the oldest sovereign; whenever there is a tie in 
the voting, the vote of the presiding officer will be decisive. All 
member nations are to renounce conquest and additions of terri- 
tory except those in dispute when the Congress is organized and 
these will be adjudged and settled at the first meetings. After- 
wards there will be permitted no other territorial aggrandize- 
ments, not even those that might result from inheritance, dowry, 
or settlement. If a sovereign should attempt to conquer another 
or to invade another nation without permission of the Congress, 
the latter will elect another sovereign in his place, without con- 
sidering the family of the deposed. If a sovereign dies without 
heir, his successor will be elected by Congress. 

In answer to the common objection that war is the glory of a 
nation, Gargaz affirms instead that the true glory is found in 
great public works and he gives as examples of future projects 
the penetration of the Isthmuses of Panama and of Suez. To the 
argument that since there always have been wars there always 
will be, he points to the examples of the princes of Germany, 
Poland, and France, who at one time struggled internally, but 
who now meet in parliaments and superior councils on terms 
of domestic tranquillity that may well serve as a model for in- 
ternational affairs. 

This was the project that Franklin read and approved. After 
Franklin's death, Gargaz revised his plan to bring it in line with 
the principles of the French Revolution, which had just taken 
place. The new version, called Contrat social surnommt union 
francmagone entre tous les bons citoiens de la Republique fran- 
goise, has the same essential features except that freemasons are 
substituted for monarchs. Each nation is to send five masonic 
arbiters who are over forty years of age; those nations refusing to 
participate will be persuaded by pressure on their merchants and 
clerks, who will not be allowed any contact with member nations. 
The refractory nations will on no account be attacked or in- 
vaded, but subjected to such absolute ostracism that even if their 


citizens should suffer famine, shipwreck, or holocaust, they would 
be given no aid, but treated as if they do not exist. 

Three editions of this work were published at Toulon, one 
without date, another during the fifth year of the Revolutionary 
calendar (1797-1798). The third, the most novel version of all, 
is an edition of the previous year printed entirely in phonetic 
spelling, based on the principles of the scheme that Gargaz had 
presented in 1773. Not only the theme of international peace, 
but also the masonic overtones and the reformed spelling are rem- 
iniscent of the spirit of Franklin. 

Although Franklin by no means reserved his private press for 
the printing of bagatelles, all the literary works he undertook to 
print reflected in one way or another some phase of his personal- 
ity or intellectual proclivities. 


After our survey of Franklin's literary diversions in Passy, we 
pass to the most entertaining aspect of his residence the intimate 
details of his personal life. In eighteenth-century France, even as 
today, the average man was interested in celebrities, particularly 
in scandal and gossip and in accounts of bons mots or eccentrici- 
ties. The abbe de la Roche collected a number of anecdotes con- 
cerning minor events in Franklin's life that, although seemingly 
trivial, had a great influence, he was convinced, upon his character 
and subsequent conduct. "The slightest facts in the history of 
a celebrated man/' he argued, "become the most interesting when 
they bring about a new order of ideas which suddenly change 
the determination of his will." * De la Roche may have felt that 
he needed to justify his anecdotes by such a general principle, 
but the average man was only too pleased to have a good story 
or item of scandal for its own sake. 

Franklin himself liked to be amused by the reading of collec- 
tions of bons mots, especially those in which the salt of pleasantry 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 25*. 


concealed a philosophical purpose, and for every story told to 
him he could reciprocate with another of the same kind. 2 Many 
anecdotes comprising witty retorts were attributed to Franklin, 
most of which included the philosophical turn that he prized. 
One of the best, which was never published in France, concerns 
his response to the abb Raynal's "favorite theory of the de- 
generacy of animals, and even of man, in America/' 3 At a dinner 
party when Raynal had been urging the doctrine with his cus- 
tomary eloquence, Franklin suggested that the French and the 
American guests rise so that they could "see on which side nature 
had degenerated." It happened that the American guests were "of 
the finest stature and form; while those of the other side were 
remarkably diminutive, and the Abb himself particularly, was 
a mere shrimp." 

Grimm reported in his Correspondence litteraire (July, 1778) 
an anecdote of Franklin's taciturnity* Throughout his sojourn 
in Paris he was noted for his silence in company, but especially 
so on his first appearance in 1776 before France became an open 
ally of the United States. A wit at a dinner during that time 
said to Franklin, hoping to bring him out in conversation, "One 
must admit, monsieur, that it is a great and superb spectacle 
which America offers us today." "Yes," replied Franklin modestly, 
"but the spectators do not pay." 4 Grimm also reported the most 
famous of Franklin's bons mots, that concerning the first balloon 
ascensions. "Many people who prided themselves upon remain- 
ing indifferent in the midst of the public enthusiasm did not fail 
to repeat, 'To what use do they expect to put these experiments? 
What good is this discovery that they make so much noise about?' 
The venerable Franklin replied with his accustomed simplicity, 
'What good is a new-born baby?' " 5 One of the pioneer aerialists, 
Ducarne de Blaugy, hearing of this flippant allusion, wrote to 
Franklin in high dudgeon, 6 maintaining in great seriousness that 
several successful flights had been made from Calais to Dover 
and that, if the balloon had been invented earlier, Gibraltar 
could have been taken. This remonstrance did not check Frank- 
lin's levity, however, for on the occasion of the flight of the first 
hydrogen balloon carrying passengers, he remarked that the 
earliest balloon was an infant, but the latest, a giant. In similar 
vein he observed that the first aerostatic machine was a child, 


of which M. Montgolfier was the father and M. Charles the foster- 
mother. 7 

A few months after Franklin's death, the abb Morellet sent 
a whole series of anecdotes to Le Moniteur, the foremost news- 
paper of the time, 8 each illustrating a phase of Franklin's prac- 
tical good sense. The first of these is recorded also by Cabanis in 
a slightly expanded form. 9 In England Franklin carried out one 
of his experiments to calm water in a pond by pouring oil upon 
it. A credulous farmer, imagining some kind of supernatural in- 
fluence, asked in amazement, "Tell me, what am I to believe?" 
"Nothing except what you see," replied Franklin. He later ob- 
served to his friends, "This man, being witness to something 
extraordinary was ready to believe the wildest absurdities such 
is the logic of three-fourths of the human race." Morellet's next 
anecdote illustrates exactly the opposite characteristic in the 
American Indians that they may witness a most extraordinary 
event without seeking to trace it back to its cause. An Indian 
one day saw Franklin's experiment of igniting alcohol by a spark 
of electricity. "Clever people, these whites," he said, without the 
least surprise or reflection. 

Elsewhere in his literary works, Morellet reports an observa- 
tion of Franklin on the subject of men who pretend to knowledge 
that they do not possess. 10 Franklin observed that an Englishman 
would readily admit "I don't know" when asked a question be- 
yond his powers, but a Frenchman would never do so. "A French- 
man always replies as though he knows very well what you ask; 
but when pinned down to details and circumstances, he is fre- 
quently forced to admit that he is ignorant of the most impor- 
tant ones, even those which are indispensable to the giving of 
any kind of an answer." Condorcet also preserved one of Frank- 
lin's observations on French national character. 11 "You have in 
France," he said one day to Turgot, "an excellent means of mak- 
ing war at absolutely no cost to the nation. You have only to 
agree not to have your hair curled and not to use powder as long 
as the war shall last. Your wig-makers will form an army, and you 
can maintain them with the fees you will save, and the grain 
which would otherwise go to make powder will serve to nourish 

Morellet repeats two stories he had heard Franklin tell several 


times that illustrate traits contrary to those symbolized by Frank- 
lin himself. 12 One concerns his experiences with a journeyman 
printer who never came to work before Wednesday. When Frank- 
lin pointed out that a full week's work would enable him to 
provide for the future, the workman replied: "Some people make 
themselves gentlemen by wholesale; I prefer doing it by retail. 
I should rather be idle half of every week for the next twenty 
years than be idle all of the week twenty years hence." Another 
in a similar vein is of a man who wished to sharpen a dull axe, 
a story Franklin included in his autobiography. The smith prom- 
ised to grind it bright if the man would turn the wheel. Finding 
this a fatiguing business, the owner of the axe stopped his turn- 
ing when the axe had just taken on a mottled shade, explaining, 
"I think a speckled axe is best." 

After the War for Independence had broken out, Franklin 
commented on his earlier having been dispossessed of the office 
of Postmaster in the colonies. "Since the suppression of my office, 
I have received no further income from it, but neither has the 
king." In his autobiography he remarked that during his tenure 
it yielded three times as much clear revenue to the crown as the 
post office of Ireland; after his removal, "not one farthingl" 1S 
Speaking of the corruption in the English parliament, he once 
said that if the people of the United States had given him one 
quarter of the cost of the war to be used in bribery, he could 
have bought their independence for them. Cabanis reports essen- 
tially the same words, 14 and Chamfort remarks that all of Frank- 
lin's friends in Paris knew the story, 15 

On the subject of the American Revolution Franklin also con- 
fided to Cabanis that he knew how to profit by ministerial pride, 
the false views of British diplomacy, and the hatred of George 
III. 16 In the affairs of the world, he said, "it is a great advantage 
to inspire a passionate hatred in one's enemy." On leaving the 
stand after his famous examination, he said to a friend who had 
accompanied him, "That was a handsome discourse which the 
buyer has not finished paying for. It can turn out to be more 
expensive than he thinks." Franklin customarily ridiculed the 
concept of checks and balances in government and had no admira- 
tion for the English political system. To him, it was an amorphous 


hodgepodge of circumstances, maintained by corruption and kept 
in order only by public spirit and freedom of the press. 

We return to the tales of Morellet: 17 When Franklin served in 
the Pennsylvania Assembly shortly after the Declaration of In- 
dependence, great debates took place concerning the form of 
government that was to be instituted. These debates extended 
themselves without issue for two or three months during which 
time life in the community continued smoothly and evenly. "You 
see/* Franklin warned his fellow legislators, "that in the midst 
of our present anarchy life goes on just as before. If our disputes 
continue, take care lest the people realize that they can easily 
dispense with our services." 

One day he was visiting the factories in Norwich, where a 
portly industrialist in showing him around boasted, "Here is cloth 
for Italy; this is for Germany, this for the West Indies, and this 
for the American continent." During this display Franklin no- 
ticed that the workers were half-naked or wearing patched and 
tattered clothing. He turned toward his guide and asked, "And 
don't you make anything for Norwich?" 

This story was told also by Charles Pougens, who had heard it 
with some others from a Scottish family living in France, dis- 
tantly related by marriage to Franklin. 18 Among his other tales, 
Pougens tells one of the crudest in existence concerning Franklin. 
It must also have been one of the most popular since Pougens 
regards its common vogue as its greatest fault. When Franklin 
was trying to demonstrate to Parliament that the colonists lacked 
the resources to pay the taxes required by the Stamp Act, some- 
one objected that the colonists should at least reimburse Parlia- 
ment for the expense of having the stamps printed. This reminded 
Franklin of a workman on the Pont-Neuf in Paris, who was heat- 
ing iron rods in a bucket and who proposed to a passer-by that 
he insert one in his backside. When the latter refused categori- 
cally, the worker demanded, "At least pay me for my coals." The 
story is authentic, for Franklin had told it in a London news- 
paper in i766. 19 In the original version Franklin compared the 
English demand for payment of the unused stamps after the re- 
peal of the Stamp Act to this same worker 

the Frenchman that used to accost English and other Strangers on 
the Pont-Neuf, with many Compliments, and a red hot Iron in Ms 


Hand; Pray Monsieur Anglois, says he, Do me the Favour to let 
me have the Honour of thrusting this hot Iron into your Backside? 
Zoons, -what does the Fellow meanl Begone with your Iron or 111 
break your Head! Nay Monsieur, replies he, {/ you do not chuse 
it, I do not insist upon it. But at least, you will in Justice have the 
Goodness to pay me something for the heating of my Iron. 

Pougens also tells of Franklin's efforts to keep Barbeu Du- 
bourg from investing in a financial enterprise, the operation of 
which Dubourg was completely ignorant. Franklin told him the 
story of a man condemned to be hanged for horse-stealing. A 
professional horse thief, who went to see the condemned man 
to find out how he came to be taken, realized after a few ques- 
tions that the condemned was a novice at the trade. When the 
other admitted it was pure chance that led him to take the horse, 
the professional replied indignantly, "What the devil do you 
mean by stealing horses, if you are not a real horse thief?" This 
story also is authentic, for John Adams recorded in his diary 
that he heard Franklin tell it at Dubourg's home, May 20, 1778. 20 

While Franklin was in France, gossip concerning his activities 
circulated in the pages of the Memoires secrets. Here and in 
VEspion anglois we find an identical description of his first ap- 
pearance in Paris. He is described as very proud of his country, 
but very reticent in public. "He said that the heavens, jealous 
of her beauty, had visited her with the scourge of civil war." The 
freethinkers who had sounded him on the subject of religion had 
come to the conclusion that he shared their own that is, that he 
had none. 21 The latter opinion was not widespread, however, for 
even in the Dictionnaire des athees anciens et modernes, 1800, 
a work that includes Young, author of Night Thoughts, Franklin 
is described merely as "the Pythagoras of the new world and the 
second founder of American liberty." No mention is made of 
religious heterodoxy. 

The Memoires continued to report Franklin's public appear- 
ances, particularly those with a note of frivolity. During the prog- 
ress of his negotiations with the French court, the Memoires no- 
ticed that Franklin was showing his human side more and more 
by appearing at social events even those noted for gallantry. 22 
At a ball given by the wife of a financier, each of the young and 
beautiful women present went in turn to pay him homage and 


to embrace him despite his spectacles, which he wore constantly 
on his nose. Many were shocked by the luxury he allowed his 
grandsons, whose red heels and other frivolous decorations con- 
trasted sharply with Franklin's dignified simplicity. 

During the entire period of his sojourn at Passy, Franklin was 
active in the affairs of the Masonic lodge of the Nine Sisters, 
attending regular meetings and social events and for a time serv- 
ing as Grand Master (Venerable). In 1778 he was present at a 
festival in his own honor, and the Memoires, in reporting it, ex- 
pressed astonishment that a man charged with such grave re- 
sponsibilities as Franklin could spend an entire day "amid a heap 
of youngsters and poetasters who intoxicated him with insipid 
and puerile incense/' 23 Announcing the news that Franklin 
had been elected Venerable (May 26, 1779), the Memoires mar- 
velled derisively that Franklin with all his weighty affairs could 
find the time "to play in the chapel and follow the assemblies 
of the free-masons as though he were the idlest brother." 2 * 

At Twelfth Night (la veille des Rois}, Franklin decided to ob- 
serve the French custom of serving consecrated bread although 
as a protestant and a mere leaseholder there was ample warrant 
for his not doing so. 25 But he found personal satisfaction in the 
ceremony, for which he had ordered thirteen brioches the num- 
ber of the American colonies. Instead of placing in each cake 
the traditional figure of a king, he wanted to insert a banderole 
with the word Liberty inscribed on the first. Two prelates, whom 
he had invited to dinner on the eve of the festival, protested 
against his unorthodox innovations. The Chevalier d'Eon, who 
was also present, added a political opinion to their theological 
remonstrance. "Being only three leagues from Versailles," he 
argued, "it was not expedient to use a word which the court 
neither loved nor wished to be acquainted with." 

At the beginning of 1783, when a victorious peace was certain 
for the Americans, La Muse de Paris, a social and artistic organi- 
zation founded by the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, held a public 
assembly at which homage to the new nation was rendered to 
Franklin as its representative. 26 There had been interminable 
personal tributes in prose and verse, including a reading of abb 
Brizard's Fragment de Xenophon> followed by a concert and 
magnificent supper. The journalists felt that the whole thing 


was a little ridiculous and that it had been carried much too far. 
"There inter scyphos isr pocula, in a delightful delirium, they 
crowned with laurel and myrtle even the head of Franklin. It 
is doubtless not a spectacle devoid of philosophy to see a grave 
personnage like M. Franklin, burdened with the most important 
concerns, especially at this moment, occupying himself with lit- 
erary foolishness of the kind, participating in these infantile 
games, and amusing himself by it." 

Just a few months later the same journal printed some satirical 
words to a popular refrain, suggesting that Franklin affected to 
be tired of popular adulation, but nevertheless showed himself 
where he was sure to receive it. 27 

Nestor de I'Am&ique, 
Prise la voix publique 
Du monde politique 
Et du monde savant: 
Mais d&Laigne rhommage 
Dont le peuple volage, 
Sans respect pour ton age, 
T'ennuie k diaque instant 
Conserve bien ta tete, 
Mais sans la montrer taut. 

At least two of the anecdotes in the Memoires secrets are sub- 
stantiated by manuscripts now existing. In 1782 Lafayette, just 
returned to France from America, became the father of a daugh- 
ter, whom he named Virginie in honor of the new republic. The 
Memoires reported that Franklin, to whom he had told the good 
news, replied good-humoredly that he wished the General a child 
for every state. 28 He added facetiously that the names of some 
were not very harmonious and that Mile. Connecticut or Mile. 
Massachusetts Bay would not be very fond of theirs. This is quite 
in accord with the spirit of Franklin's actual letter: 

In naming your Children I think you do well to begin with the 
most antient State. And as we cannot have too many of so good 
a Race I hope you & M me - de la Fayette will go thro the Thirteen. 
But as that may be in the common Way too severe a task for her 
delicate Frame, and Children of Seven Months may become as 
Strong as those of Nine, I consent to the Abridgement of Two 
Months for each; and I wish her to spend the Twenty-six Months 
so gained, in perfect Ease, Health & Pleasure. 


While you are proceeding, I hope our States will some of them 
new-name themselves. Miss Virginia, Miss Carolina, and Miss 
Georgiana will sound prettily enough for the Girls; but Massa- 
chusetts & Connecticut, are too harsh even for the Boys, unless 
they were to be Savages. 29 

The Memoires secrets found Franklin's own name subject for 
amusement, reporting at length an extremely crude pun. 30 A 
farmer from Normandy named Franqlin came with his genea- 
logical records to visit Franklin and to determine whether they 
belonged to the same family. After the exchange of appropriate 
greetings, Franklin asked his secretary to examine his claims. The 
latter, remarking on the difference in the spelling of the two 
names, concocted a witticism, which cannot be translated, "Mon- 
sieur, de votre Q (cul) faites un K (cas) & vos papiers vous 
serviront." Whether or not he was forced to submit to this rude 
pun, there was actually a country-dweller named Franquelin who 
fancied himself as Franklin's relative. A number of his letters on 
the subject are still in existence, including one in which he asks 
Franklin to use his illustrious name and influence to obtain for 
him the position of Agent on one of the King's farms. 31 The pun 
on his name must have found great favor with the Paris wits, 
for six years later the entire tale reappeared in the Memoires 
secrets in verse form. 82 The only notable difference is that the 
name is here spelled Franquelin, and he is said to come from 
Brittany. This is the spelling' on the letters actually sent to Frank- 
lin, but they came from Hesdin, which is in Pas-de-Calais. 

Un Breton nomm Franquelin, 

Se croyant le cousin-germain 

Du Savant de Philadelphie, 

Vint a Paris de Quimper-Corentin 

Pour compulser la gnalogie. 

Voila mon homme convaincu 
De son bon droit, qui deduit sa demande. 
Monsieur, dit un plaisant, la difference est grande 

Entre les noms & Ton vous a degu. 
Le Docteur pose un K & vous posez un Q. 
La signature ainsi de tout terns fut crite: 

Mais pour vous tirer d'embarras, 

De votre Q (cul) faites un K (cas) 
Et vos papiers vous serviront ensuite. 


The court circle also found amusement in Franklin's name. One 
day when he was coldly received by the King, a wag said his name 
should be Franc-C61in (a true rustic). 38 

A number o anecdotes concern Franklin's adaptation to the 
artificial manners of Parisian society. A very improbable story 
in the New Hampshire Gazette, December s>s>, 1778, describes 
Franklin in the gardens of Versailles demonstrating some of his 
electrical experiments for the benefit of the Queen. 84 "She asked 
him, in a fit of raillery, if he did not dread the fate of Prometheus, 
who was so severely served for stealing fire from Heaven. 'Yes, 
please your Majesty' (replied old Franklin, with infinite gal- 
lantry), 'if I did not behold a pair of eyes this moment, which 
have stolen infinitely more fire from Jove than ever I did, pass 
unpunished, though they do more mischief in a week than I have 
done in all my experiments." 

A more probable anecdote concerns his relations with Lord 
Stormont, die British ambassador in Paris who, like Franklin, 
engaged in propaganda for his country. On one occasion he 
allegedly "told a French nobleman, that six battalions in Wash- 
ington's army had laid down their arms. The nobleman applied 
to Doctor Franklin, to know whether the story was a truth (une 
verite), to which the Doctor answered, c Non, Monsieur, ce n'est 
pas verite, c?est seulement un Stormont. No Sir, it is not a truth, 
it is only a Stormont.' This answer was afterwards handed about 
amongst the wits of Paris, and the word Stormont has since be- 
come the court phrase for a lie." 35 

Details concerning another phase of Franklin's life at Passy 
his inveterate chess playing came from the grandson of Frank- 
lin's landlord, Donatien le Ray de Chaumont. 86 Franklin spent 
nearly every free evening at the latter's home in the central part 
of a large building of which Franklin occupied one of the wings. 
One evening in the apartment of Mme. de Chaumont, Franklin 
began a game of chess with the priest who served as tutor to the 
heir of the family. When the lady wished to retire, the game was 
transferred at Franklin's suggestion to his own quarters. There 
one game succeeded another, until the supply of candles became 
exhausted. Franklin, absorbed by the pleasures of combat, pro- 
tested, "My dear abb6, it is impossible for two men such as we 
to give up because of the lack of illumination." The priest there- 


upon offered to seek a new supply of candles in his own quarters 
and set off with Franklin's benediction, "May the goddess of 
night protect you in your adventurous journey.'* In his absence 
Franklin took advantage of the last flickers of candlelight treach- 
erously to plot a check-mate. He was still far from having arranged 
it when the abbe returned with a bewildered air. "What is 
wrong?" Franklin asked. "You look like a man who has just lost 
two chess-games. Has the goddess of night failed to answer my 
prayer or has Mercury sent one of his imps to our park?" "It is 
not at all a matter of night and robbers," replied the abbe. "It 
is Phoebus or at least Aurora with her rosy fingers who reigns 
at this moment." So saying, he opened the blinds and the sunlight 
filled the room. "You are right, it is daytime," Franklin replied 
calmly. "Let's go to bed." 

On another occasion Franklin was playing with an important 
northern diplomat at the home of one of the French ministers. 
The room filled with public men and diplomats, but Franklin re- 
fused to give up his game. Suddenly a messenger presented Frank- 
lin with a packet from America that had just arrived at Franklin's 
house. This was at a time of one of the most crucial phases of 
the war and there had been no dispatches for some time; still 
Franklin pretended not to hear and went on with his game. The 
younger Chaumont, who had been Franklin's pupil in chess as 
well as in English, ventured to take the packet and present it 
again to Franklin, explaining that it was a dispatch from Con- 
gress. Franklin replied that it could keep until the game was 
over, and only then did he open the dispatch, which announced 
one of the most sensational triumphs of the war. Jefferson relates 
that Franklin frequently played with the old Duchess of Bourbon, 
whose game was about equal to his. "Happening once to put his 
king into prize, the Doctor took it. *Ah/ says she, 'we do not take 
kings so.' 'We do in America,' said the Doctor." 37 Lafayette told 
a similar story to Fanny Wright, who in turn passed it on to 
Jeremy Bentham. "While Franklin was negotiating in Paris, he 
sometimes went into a cafe to play at chess. A crowd usually as- 
sembled, of course to see the man rather than the play. Upon one 
occasion, Franklin lost in the middle of the game, when, com- 
posedly taking the king from the board, he put him in his pocket 
and continued to move. The antagonist looked up. The face of 


Franklin was so grave, and his gesture so much in earnest, that 
he began with an expostulatory, 'Sir!' 'Yes, Sir, continue/ said 
Franklin, 'and we shall soon see that the party without a king 
will win the game/ " 38 

Chaumont includes among his anecdotes a tale of Franklin's 
shrewd behavior at a country inn in America. Entering the tap- 
room one day, benumbed with cold, he found the fireplace sur- 
rounded and all the benches taken. No one moved, for Franklin 
was at the time unknown. He called out, therefore, in a stentorian 
voice for a basket of oysters to be taken outside to his horse. The 
chimney-squatters, overhearing the command, ran with curiosity 
to watch the oysters being opened and presented to the horse. 
Franklin in the meantime took his choice of the vacated seats. 
The company came trooping back to Franklin to explain that 
the horse had refused to eat the oysters. "In that case," Franklin 
replied, "give the horse some hay and bring the oysters to me/' 89 
The same story circulated in America as well, where it was turned 
into the following verse. 40 

Franklin, one night, cold freezing to the skin, 
Stop'd on his journey, at a public inn; 
Rejoic'd perceives the kindling flames arise; 
But, luckless sage, perceives with distant eyes 
A blackguard crew monopolize the heat, 

... seat. 

"Ho," cries the doctor never at a loss, 

"Landlord a peck of oysters for my horse." 

"Your horse eat oysters," cries the wondering host? 

"Give him a peck, you'll see they wont be lost." 

The croud astonished rush into the stall; 

"A horse eat oysters, what, and shells and alii" 

Meantime, our traveller as the rest retire, 

Picks the best seat at the deserted fire; 

A place convenient for the cunning elf, 

To roast his oysters and to warm himself. 

The herd returned, "your horse wont eat them sir." 

"Wont eat good oysters; he's a simple cur, 

I know who will," he adds in merry mood, 

"Hand them to me, a horse don't know what's good." 

The authors of all of the foregoing anecdotes were concerned 
primarily with telling a good story or repeating a memorable 
event. Two other compilers of Franklin memorabilia, the abb 


de la Roche and Cabanis, used their material not primarily for 
its own sake, but to illustrate a general principle of morality or 
human behavior. De la Roche gathered together his anecdotes 
in order to show that minor events and apparently trivial cir- 
cumstanceseven those of childhoodmay serve to develop the 
character of an extraordinary man. He considered his reminis- 
cences of Franklin as a study in human character. In his own 
words, "My liaison with this great man . . . has enabled me to 
record the particular events which, although slight in appear- 
ance, have had in his own opinion the greatest influence on his 
character and on the whole conduct of his life." 41 Ironically those 
anecdotes of Franklin that were printed merely as morsels of gos- 
sip or samples of witty repartee and human eccentricity enjoyed 
a wide circulation, whereas the incidents that de la Roche selected 
to illustrate his principle of moral development were not pub- 
lished until modern times. We shall see that all of the following 
incidents reflect in one way or another the view that in all the 
occupations of his life Franklin despised anything that did not 
lead directly to the true enjoyment of a rational man. Doubtless 
the abb would have had little respect for the opinion of Chau- 
mont and the editors of the Memoires secrets that some of Frank- 
lin's occupations represented a rather low degree of rational en- 

According to the abb, Franklin throughout his life constantly 
based his conduct on the maxim, "To be useful to others and to 
depend on them as little as possible is to approach the perfection 
of the all-powerful Being who does good to everything and has 
need of nothing." The habit of doing everything for himself led 
to his scientific discoveries and enabled him to devise and manu- 
facture for himself the equipment necessary for his experiments. 
In whatever he did he sought simplicity and valued things only 
for their usefulness. His zeal for simplicity led him to ridicule 
the vanity of variety and multiplicity, the incommodious luxury 
of the handsome apartments of Parisian aristocrats. He once com- 
mented, "I see marble, porcelain and gilt squandered without 
utility, elegant fireplaces which smoke without heating; tables 
on which one cannot write without freezing with cold and then 
only against the light; beds and alcoves where one may sleep in 


good health, but where in sickness it is impossible to be cared 
for or to read or to write comfortably." 

He had a rich Quaker friend, who lived by himself in an enor- 
mous home. Franklin, visiting him, asked in every superfluous 
room he entered, why his friend bothered to keep it up. The 
latter always answered that he did so because he had the means. 
Finally, Franklin asked why he had a table in his dining room 
large enough for twenty-five people. The answer was the same 
because he had the means. "In that case," replied Franklin, "why 
don't you have a hat of the same size. You have the means." In 
the spirit of Poor Richard Franklin argued that by seeking to 
display wealth we are seeing through the eyes of others. Franklin 
himself, by curtailing the foolish display of vanity, was able to 
devote his time to making his life useful to his country and to 
the world. Even in the midst of his complicated diplomatic ne- 
gotiations he never allowed his correspondence or other affairs 
to remain without attention. His health was so good that he some- 
times went for eight days at a time without any rest except a few 
hours in his armchair. Even at the age of eighty, he taught his 
grandson to swim in the Seine at Passy, making the trip with 
him from bank to bank. 

Franklin enjoyed feminine companionship and indulged him- 
self in it even though it meant a loss of time. "He welcomed his 
friends of the gentler sex with a sort of amiable coquettishness 
which pleased every one of them. If any one of them, jealous of his 
preferences, demanded whether he did not love her more than 
the others, he replied, 'Yes, when you are nearest to me because 
of the force of attraction/ " He loved to tell his moral tales to 
young people also and to inspire them with simple and natural 
tastes. To a young man ready for a trip to Italy, Franklin gave a 
lesson in education. Discovering that the young man knew noth- 
ing of the arts and the talents of the country he was planning to 
visit, Franklin advised him to acquire some knowledge before 
setting out. "To see monuments requires only eyes, but to appre- 
ciate them requires a judgment exercised by comparisons and 
enlightened by study." Franklin told the young man that without 
prior knowledge he could hope to learn little by travel, for it is 
necessary to converse in order to learn. Conversation is a form 
of exchange, and he who contributes nothing receives nothing in 


return. The man who cannot even ask the right questions will 
not find others eager to give away information gratuitously. 

His love of simplicity led him to confine himself to a single 
secretary, despite his voluminous correspondence, and he per- 
suaded Vergennes to conduct all American affairs personally with 
him in order to spare the delays and duplications of bureaucracy. 
Despite his mania for economizing time, he felt himself obliged 
to be civil to almost everyone who importuned him. A certain 
member of the ancient nobility wrote, for example, to offer his 
services as monarch of the new country, declaring that since his 
title extended to William the Conqueror, he was possessed of all 
the qualifications. He offered to accept the title of King with a pen- 
sion of fifteen thousand pounds and agreed to remain in his own 
province so that the Americans could govern themselves as they 
pleased. Thomas Paine in The Rights of Man tells the story with 
minor variations. The candidate for the American kingship in- 
troduced his proposal to the Doctor by letter, stating, that as the 
Americans had dismissed their king, they would need another, 
that he was a Norman of more ancient family than the Dukes of 
Normandy and that his line had never been bastardized. Re- 
ceiving no reply, he wrote a second letter in which he proposed 
"with great dignity - . . that if his offer was not accepted, an 
acknowledgement of about 30,000 might be made to him for 
his generosity!" 42 

At the conclusion of the war, Mme. Helv6tius and Franklin's 
other friends begged him not to return to Pennsylvania, but to 
undergo an operation for the stone and to finish out the re- 
mainder of his days with them. Jefferson on hearing this made 
the remark that if Franklin were to accept this proposal and then 
succumb to the operation, he would have no alternative but to 
seize his coffin and return it to America, convinced that the very 
presence of Franklin's body would consolidate the spirit of the 
Revolution. Franklin himself begged his friends not to make his 
parting more difficult by urging him to remain. "My task is not 
finished," he told them. "The little which remains of my life I 
owe to those who have entrusted me with their own. I suffer, it 
is true, but nature, which has treated me so well up to the present, 
will surely allow me the time to reply to the desires of my coun- 
trymen. If I am cured after satisfying all my duties toward my 


country, my greatest happiness will be to finish out my days in 
a country where I have enjoyed so many pleasures among the 
most enlightened men of Europe." A similar anecdote appeared 
in print the year after Franklin's death. To someone who asked 
why he should leave the climate of France to which he was now 
accustomed, he replied, "If I had no country of my own, it would 
be at Paris where I should like to finish out my days; but I want 
to enjoy for a moment the pleasure of seeing my fellow-citizens 
free and ready for all the happiness I wish them." 48 

Although de la Roche measured the sincerity of Franklin's re- 
grets on the subject of his departure by the presence of tears in 
his eyes, he was careful to add that at all times his words were 
the true expression of his feelings. "If he sometimes believed it 
prudent to hide his opinions, he never disguised them/' His only 
means of deceiving the British Ministry had been to tell them 
the literal truth. The American Revolution would never have 
taken place had they believed him at the time of his examination 
at the House of Commons. 

Advanced age did not in the least diminish his sensibilities. 
One day walking in the Bois de Boulogne with a friend, he spoke 
of his son who had died at the age of seven over forty years pre- 
viously and tears came to his eyes. He said to his friend, "Do not 
be surprised at the grief which such a distant loss still causes. 
Alas! I still imagine that this son would have been the best of 
my children." Franklin's tenderness toward all children is re- 
ported by Pougens, who records one of his typical sayings, "Chil- 
dren should be treated like strangers who arrive from an un- 
known country and who must be politely taught the customs of 

An anecdote in other papers of the abb de la Roche reveals 
that Franklin held a very low opinion of political oratory. 44 Dur- 
ing his twenty years of service at the British court he observed 
that the ministers who shone most brilliantly by their eloquence 
in Parliament were the most inept in handling of great affairs 
and discussion of details. The verbiage of these orators so com- 
pletely blocked and confused the progress of affairs that the King 
was forced to take them into the ministry in order to put an end 
to it. Franklin had heard the elder Pitt, for example, speak ad- 
mirably for entire half-days on subjects concerning which Frank- 


lin wished to negotiate, but he would never have had any results 
without the aid of his clerks and secretary. At the beginning of 
the American troubles, Pitt was strongly desirous of bringing 
about reconciliation. Although he no longer held office of any 
kind, he frequently visited Franklin's apartments incognito in 
order to lay the foundation for negotiations. He always spoke at 
great length, never listened to replies, and left without conclud- 
ing anything. One day Franklin visited him at his country estate, 
carrying with him documents incorporating a plan of reconcilia- 
tion. Franklin arrived at nine in die morning, listened for six 
hours to Pitt's wit and eloquence, and left at three in the after- 
noon with his papers untouched and the subject of the confer- 
ence not even broached. 

Most of the anecdotes recorded by de la Roche, since they are 
not available elsewhere, give a novel and colorful view of Frank- 
lin's personality. Many of those presented by Cabanis, on the 
other hand, are based upon Franklin's Memoirs and consequently 
serve to support the conventional view of Franklin's character 
rather than to furnish new light upon his behavior and personal- 
ity. Cabanis sees Franklin through Franklin's own eyes, that is 
to say, he sees essentially what Franklin had taught him to look 
for. The epitome of Franklin's own notions as expressed in his 
Memoirs are revealed in Cabanis' theory of the art of biography: 

The fundamental facts in the history of great men are without 
doubt the important events in which they have taken part or the 
works which they have executed. But frequently there results from 
a knowledge of these facts no precise idea concerning the temper 
of their mind and character. Those among them who most deserve 
to stand as models, those whose memory is accompanied by the 
most useful lessons, need to be studied in the details which con- 
cern their intimate day to day existence. . . . This truth ... is 
especially applicable to the great men who are distinguished pri- 
marily by their character, who are not content to afford to fame 
merely some moments or some days of a sort of theatrical repre- 
sentation, who do not owe their reputation to some transitory 
flashes, but who have established it upon a continuous plan of 
conduct, or a regular system of habits of every moment. Such was 
Benjamin Franklin, no doubt in the eyes of his friends more 
extraordinary, more worthy of being observed in the intimate de- 
tails of his life, than he was great in the eyes of America and 


This definition or estimate of a great man was tailor-made for 
Franklin, since Franklin himself attributed his eminence to a 
number of systematic, moral, and physical exercises and wrote 
his autobiography partly to vindicate his modes of self-examina- 
tion. Cabanis, who believed that Franklin's character was even 
more important than his scientific discoveries or his brilliant po- 
litical exploits, wrote his "Notice" on Franklin as a supple- 
mentary vindication. As a result, his work is deadly serious with 
no lively anecdotes such as those of his friends Morellet and de 
la Roche. 

Franklin, aware of the philosophical earnestness of Cabanis, 
probably exposed to him only the serious side of his own charac- 
ter. As a matter of fact, Franklin seems to have pulled his leg at 
least once. In one of his most serious works, Rapports du physique 
et du moral de I'homme, Cabanis says that he had several times 
heard Franklin tell that he had "observed in the forests of North 
America a sort of bird which, like the horned screamer or the 
horned lapwing, carries two horned tubercles at the joints of the 
wings. These two tubercles at the death of the bird become the 
sprouts of two vegetable stalks which grow at first in sucking the 
juice from its cadavre and which subsequently attach themselves 
to the earth in order to live in the manner of plants and trees." 46 
Completely au serieux Cabanis remarks in his next sentence, 
"Several other learned naturalists, among others my illustrious 
colleague Lacepede, to whom I have spoken of this fact, ignore it 
absolutely; therefore in spite of the great veracity of Franklin, I 
cite it with a great deal of reserve, and I draw from it no conclu- 
sion." Franklin's "great veracity" in this tale is of a piece with his 
stories of the grand leap of the whales up the falls of the Niagara 
and of the North American sheep with so much wool that each 
requires a four-wheeled wagon to support it. 47 Cabanis reports also 
that Franklin believed that he had several times received a revela- 
tion in his dreams of the outcome of his affairs, and that despite 
his strong mind that was otherwise completely devoid of preju- 
dice he was unable entirely to escape a grain of superstition be- 
cause of these inner voices. 48 

Cabanis prepared his recollections of Franklin when only the 
first part of Franklin's Memoirs had appeared, and he consid- 
ered his own work as a temporary substitute for the complete ver- 


sion. Many of his reminiscences duplicate sections o the auto- 
biography, but some details in his recounting vary from Frank- 
lin. 49 On the subject of early intellectual influences, for example, 
Franklin merely mentions Plutarch and attributes to Xenophon a 
considerable influence on his early thought. Cabanis reverses the 
emphasis: "It was before leaving his father's house that there fell 
into his hands some volumes of Plutarch; he devoured them. 
Nothing had ever made a stronger impression on him than the 
great and simple manner and the philosophy at the same time 
wise and generous of this writer, if it was not perhaps the ex- 
quisite good sense and the plainer virtue of Socrates ... in the 
Memorabilia of Xenophon. . . . Having read the tract on 'The 
Eating of Flesh/ Franklin became convinced of the barbarous- 
ness and the pernicious effects of this custom; he resolved never 
more to eat anything which had once had life." In a note Cabanis 
points out that in his Memoirs Franklin attributes this resolution 
to the reading of a book by Tryon on vegetable diet, but at Paris 
he had spoken only of Plutarch. The abb de la Roche also says 
that Franklin adopted his rule against eating meat from Plutarch. 
Cabanis follows the Memoirs in reporting that Franklin's read- 
ing of Anthony Collins gave him such a skeptical turn of mind 
that he began to question all matters of dogma, the divinity of 
the Scriptures, revelation, and the mysteries. According to Cabanis, 
he 'never reached the final step of denying the reality of moral 
distinctions. (Cabanis had never read his Dissertation on Liberty 
and Necessity!) "As for morality, he constantly repeated that it 
was the single rational design of individual happiness as it was 
the sole guarantee of public happiness. One day when he had 
already spoken at length on this point, he finished by telling 
us . . . : 'If rascals knew all the advantages of virtue, they would 
become honest out of rascality. ' " ("Si les coquins savaient tous les 
avantages de la vertu, ils deviendraient honnetes gens par co- 
quinerie." Elsewhere in his works Cabanis repeats the same 
thought in slightly different words: "Si les fripons, disait le sage 
Franklin, pouvaient connaitre tous les avantages attaches a 1'habi- 
tude des vertus, ils seraient honnetes gens par friponnerie.") * It 
is not surprising that Franklin should have said this even though 
he did not include a proverb to this effect in Poor Richard. As 
a matter of fact, he printed one of the opposite view, "Poor Plain 


Dealing! dead without Issue" (September, 1750). He did not even 
say in Poor Richard that "honesty is the best policy." This prov- 
erb is from Cervantes, not Franklin. Yet a major portion of Poor 
Richard, including all of The Way to Wealth, reflects principles 
of prudential morality. As we have already pointed out, the orig- 
inal Poor Richard has no comprehensive theme especially in the 
early years. When Franklin first began publication he tried to 
make it entertaining as well as useful, and his chief emphasis was 
upon entertainment. Then after perceiving that it was almost uni- 
versally read in Pennsylvania, he "considered it as a proper ve- 
hicle for conveying instruction among the common people." This 
is his own retrospective view in the Memoirs, but it is quite pos- 
sible that he there attributes to himself a higher motive than ac- 
tually prevailed at the time. He explains that he chose "proverbial 
sentences, chiefly such as inculcated industry and frugality, as the 
means of procuring wealth, and thereby securing virtue; it being 
more difficult for a man in want, to act always honestly, as, to use 
here one of those proverbs, it is hard -for an empty sack to stand 
upright'' 51 It is worthy of special mention that even this pruden- 
tial morality is not quite the same thing as the sublime virtue 
that Dubourg and other French commentators attempted to read 
into The Way to Wealth. 

Cabanis also reports Franklin's device for attaining moral per- 
fection, which is described in great detail in the Memoirs. Frank- 
lin explains that in order to acquire perfection in the practice of 
what he considered to be the thirteen primary virtues, he ar- 
ranged in a notebook a chart with a list of these virtues and spaces 
opposite them for the seven days of the week. Checking with black 
marks each fault committed, he attempted gradually to eradicate 
every offense. The importance of the recapitulation of Franklin's 
method by Cabanis is the evidence that Franklin took his note- 
book with him to France. "We have had in our hands this pre- 
cious little book. One perceives in it a sort of chronological his- 
tory of Franklin's mind and character. One sees him develop, for- 
tify and mold all the actions which constitute spiritual perfection, 
and the art of life and virtue taught in the same manner as that 
of playing an instrument or manufacturing weapons." 

Solely on the basis of his own observation Cabanis adds what 
amounts to a fourteenth virtue politeness. This must have been 


one of Franklin's most admirable characteristics, and a recogni- 
tion of it should do much to counterbalance aspersions on his be- 
havior based on the apparent smugness or moral materialism of 
the thirteen original virtues. According to Cabanis, Franklin con- 
sidered politeness to be a kind of amiable benevolence, not the 
artificial etiquette of social relations expressed in gestures and 
formalities. "That which he esteemed was the politeness of the 
heart, the evidence of a habitual obligingness. He made of it a 
virtue he thought that one is obliged to be amiable almost as 
one must pay one's debts and that only a higher interest may 
excuse a good man for offending another even in indifferent 
concerns. 'The most irreconcilable discords, the most violent hates, 
often stem/ he said, 'from minor pricks such as those which re- 
leased the winds enclosed in Ulysses' leathern bag. One may 
easily avoid many chagrins and misfortunes by a little attention 
to one's self and consideration for others and even if an open 
rupture comes about one is at fault if one does not make the peo- 
ple with whom one lives as happy as one can.' " 

Cabanis reveals much about Franklin's early life that is not in 
the Memoirs, particularly about his reading habits. He read 
Bacon's Essays and was impressed by "Of Atheism." "He loved to 
cite two sentences of Bacon, one that it requires more credulous- 
ness to be an atheist than to believe in God; the other 'that a lit- 
tle philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in 
philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.' " Cabanis 
also attributes much greater influence to the Bible than Franklin 
admits in his own works. "In reading the Bible, which he did 
often, the Book of Proverbs attracted his attention in a particular 
manner. One notices in those books called wisdom books a great 
knowledge of the human heart and of society. The Proverbs con- 
tains excellent lessons applicable to common life and compressed 
in energetic and piquant phrases. Franklin there read: 'Length of 
days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor/ " 
The pronoun in this proverb refers to Virtue. For some reason 
Cabanis converts the pronoun to the second person: "La longue 
vie est dans ta main droite, et la fortune dans ta main gauche/' 
In his Memoirs, Franklin cites this proverb as one of several in 
his notebook on moral perfection, but he does not give it the pre- 
eminence that Cabanis does. 52 He also clearly indicates that it is 


virtue and not merely personal persistence that guarantees for- 
tune and long life. Cabanis cites Franklin's determination at the 
age of twenty to confirm this proverb in his own life. At the age 
of eighty he recalled this circumstance to his friends and added, 
"Judge whether I have been deceived. My health was not more 
firm then than today. I enjoy, not opulence, but easy circum- 
stances far above my needs; and it is well known in the world 
that King George has little reason to be content with his quarrels 
with the journeyman printer." 

When Franklin announced to his family his determination to 
follow a vegetarian diet, "his mother let him have his way per- 
suaded that his eccentricity would -not last. But she soon per- 
ceived that she was mistaken; and when his friends asked her 
what could have put such a thing in the head of her son, she re- 
plied, 'He is a mad philosopher.' She added, 'There is nothing 
bad in it; this will give him the habit of empire over himself; he 
will learn that one can do anything with a strong will/ " The 
abb de la Roche tells the same story, but with a completely dif- 
ferent emphasis. According to his account, when one of Franklin's 
friends asked her why he ate only fruits and vegetables, his 
mother replied, 'Apparently he read it in some old mad philoso- 
pher/ " De la Roche adds that "this light sarcasm touched him 
little." 5S Another version of this story appeared in print before 
Franklin's death and before the publication of any part of his 
Memoirs, indeed before the revised copy was sent to Le Veillard 
and La Rochefoucauld. In the Journal de Paris, March 27, 1786, 
and later in Almanack litter air e, on etrennes d'Apollon (Paris, 
1787) appeared an anecdote on Franklin at the age of twenty deter- 
mining to pursue a diet of bread and water exclusively. It was 
told that he lived for six weeks on a pound of bread a day and 
no other beverage but water without perceiving any debilitation 
of mind or body. "His mother, who was asked why he lived 
such a strange life, replied, 'He has read some crazy philosopher, 
a certain Plutarch, but I leave him alone; he will soon get tired 
of it/ " " 

According to Cabanis, Franklin maintained that man is com- 
plete only when he is associated with a wife worthy of providing 
his happiness. Until then his existence is imperfect; it is only the 
half of a whole, which cannot remain thus divided without great 


disadvantages. Nature always punishes us by the faults and par- 
ticular misfortunes of a system that contradicts hers. In 1768 
Franklin had written in similar terms to a young man congratu- 
lating him on marrying early in life. "An odd Volume of a Set of 
Books," he wrote, "is not worth its proportion of the Set, and 
what think you of the Usefulness of an odd Half of a Pair of Scis- 
sors. It cannot well cut any thing. It may possibly serve to scrape 
a Trencher." 55 Later in Passy he wrote to another friend, "Man fc 
Woman have each of them Qualities & Tempers, in which the 
other is deficient, and which in Union contribute to the common 
Felicity. Single and separate, they are not the compleat human 
Being; they are like the odd Halves of Scissors; they cannot an- 
swer the End of their Formation." 5S Cabanis quotes Franklin as 
saying of his own wife, "I discovered that she always knew what 
I did not know, and if something escaped me, I was sure that it 
was precisely that which she had seized." 

On the subject of material wealth, Cabanis reported that Frank- 
lin was pleased to have a competency, but did not wish to be 
wealthy. He had often said that he was rather disturbed at be- 
ing as rich as he was than at not being any richer. "My heirs," he 
added, "will find it more difficult to deserve something than if the 
need of making their own way inspired their activity; and I 
should consider myself culpable toward them if I sought to heap 
advantages upon them which one ordinarily enjoys wholesomely 
only when one has acquired it by one's own labor." 

Cabanis relates an anecdote concerning Washington that caused 
the American general to become a symbol of militarism during 
the French Revolution. At the outbreak of the War for Inde- 
pendence, the patriots were somewhat dubious about Washington 
because he seemed to vacillate between the British military serv- 
ice and the voice of his country. "His first incertitudes had left 
some doubts in the mind of ardent republicans, and, at the out- 
set, when he ventured some remarks on political affairs, they were 
known to say to him, *Mr. Washington, do not concern yourself 
with thatget up on your white horse.* " In the French National 
Assembly, July 21, 1792, M. Torn used this story in a speech 
directed against Lafayette. According to Torn6, Franklin often 
remarked with complacence that Washington "appeared one day 
in Congress to talk on public affairs. 'Get back on your battle 


horse,' said the president of the Congress, It is up to us to regu- 
late internal affairs/ " CT 

Volney, who during his youth was a close friend of Cabanis and 
actually lived for a time in the house of Mme. Helv&ius, a fact 
little known, reports in one of his letters a saying concerning old 
age. 58 

"My dear Franklin/' Mme. Helv<tius said to him, "I like to be- 
lieve that you are happy." "I become more so every day," he re- 
plied. "I have never had the misfortune of finding myself ill. First 
poor, then rich, I have always been content with what I have, with- 
out thinking about what I have not; but since I have begun to age, 
since my passions have diminished, I feel a well-being of mind and 
heart that I never knew before and which is impossible to know at 
the age of these young people," he said, in pointing at us, Cabanis 
and me. "At that age, the spirit is exterior; at mine, it is interior; 
it looks out the window at the stir of those who pass by without 
taking part in their disputes." 

Franklin's swan song, according to Cabanis, was a letter he sent 
to Mme. Helv&ius after his return to America. In it he reported 
that "nearly all his days were passed among workmen constructing 
commodious houses for his grandchildren, that he sometimes re- 
newed acquaintance with the sages of all the centuries and he 
tried to reassemble in his home those of his own country, that he 
also devoted some moments to the arrangement of his papers and 
to the writing of the last part of his memoirs. I extend, he added, 
my arms toward you despite the immensity of the seas which sep- 
arate us, in awaiting the celestial kiss which I firmly hope to give 
you one day," 

Of all the French anecdotes concerning Franklin, perhaps the 
most significant concerns his social and economic station. Ac- 
cording to de la Roche, the Queen, struck with his modest and 
simple demeanor, asked a courtier what his occupation had been 
before being made ambassador, "Overseer of a printing-house," 
was the answer. Another, overhearing it, remarked, "In France 
he could never have risen to be higher than a bookseller." Pou- 
gens tells the same story except that it is a duke who refers dis- 
dainfully to Franklin's occupation in America, and a man of 
letters who replies sardonically, "Too bad that he was not born 
in France; he would have been able with your protection to be- 
come one of the thirty-six printers in Paris." 


This anecdote reveals an aspect of Franklin's reputation ap- 
parent in more serious sources that he became the first symbol 
in France of the American ideal, or the American legend, of the 
rise from rags to riches. This theme received its primary state- 
ment in an anonymous English work, A View of the History of 
Great-Britain, during the Administration of Lord North, 1782, 
from which it was taken up and circulated in France. 59 Because of 
its importance I shall quote it in extenso. 

. . . This man (who formerly for many years carried on the 
business of a printer at Philadelphia) may be considered as the 
first fruits of American genius: and perhaps no man ever owed 
more to the time and place of his birth: had he been a native of 
London instead of Boston, and born into the same rank of society 
[His father was a tallow-chandler], the world would probably never 
have heard his name either as a philosopher or politician. Pent within 
a populous city, his occupation would have been more laborious, 
and his incentives to cultivate speculative science, would have been 
suppressed by every consideration of interest or ambition. He 
might have distinguished himself as an ingenious artist, but he 
would neither have formed an hypothesis to account for the phe- 
nomenon of the Aurora Borealis, nor have traced out the prin- 
ciples and operations of the electrical fluid; and what is much more 
important, he would never have become a powerful engine to 
shake a great empire, and to erect a congeries of republics from its 
dismembered parts; nor would he have had the appropriated dis- 
tinction of being the principal agent to introduce a new aera in 
the history of mankind, which may prove as important as any which 
have yet elapsed, by procuring a legislative power to the western 
hemisphere. In this view he may be considered as a greater enemy 
to England than even Philip II or Louis XIV. 

This paragraph and three subsequent ones devoted to Franklin 
were translated literally by Milliard d'Auberteuil in his His to ire 
de V administration de Lord North; 1784, a work that is a para- 
phrase and extension of the anonymous London publication. 60 
The section on Franklin from the English work was also inde- 
pendently translated and incorporated in Annecdotes (sic) histo- 
riques sur les principaux personnages qui jouent maintenant un 
role en Angleterre, lyS^ 61 

Condorcet presumably borrowed the theme from one of these 
sources for his De I 9 influence de la revolution d'Am&rique sur 
V Europe, lySS, 62 in which he cites Franklin as evidence that de- 


pendence upon the mother country would not have extinguished 
the natural genius of Americans. But this dependence "would 
nearly always have directed genius toward other objects. The de- 
sire o being something in England would have stifled all other 
sentiments in the mind of an American born with energy and 
talents, and he would have chosen the quickest and the surest 
means of attaining his end. Those who would not have been 
able to nourish this ambition would have fallen into indolence 
and discouragement." 

The English work from which this concept derives presents 
perhaps the best epitome of contemporary opinion concerning 
Franklin. 63 

Trammelled in no system, he may be said to be a philosopher 
without the rules, a politician without adopting the Roman pan- 
dects, and a statesman without having sacrificed to the graces: pos- 
sessing a diversity of genius without a versatility of temper. 

Even today this statement could hardly be improved upon. 


Perhaps the most remarkable evidence of the respect and affec- 
tion Franklin enjoyed in France is found in the official tributes 
and eulogies after his death. Most famous of all declarations made 
anywhere concerning Franklin was the dramatic announcement 
of his passing by Mirabeau to the National Assembly, June 11, 
lygo. 1 It was eventually printed by nearly every newspaper in 
France, London, and the United States, and came to be consid- 
ered one of the symbolic statements of the French Revolution. 

Mirabeau, the outstanding orator of the Assembly, used his 
sonorous voice and dramatic delivery in a brief but highly signifi- 
cant tribute. In asking the French nation to observe a period of 
mourning, he drew a contrast between the old regime symbolized 
by insincere adulation of royalty and the revolutionary regime 

Notes to this chapter begin on page 254. 


of enlightenment symbolized by universal love o truth and benev- 

Franklin is dead. He has returned to the bosom of the Divinity, 
the genius who freed America and shed torrents of light upon 

The sage whom two worlds claim, the man about whom the 
history of sciences and the history of empires dispute, will doubt- 
less maintain a high place in the annals of the human race. 

Long enough the cabinets of statesmen have announced the death 
of those whose greatness is to be found only in funeral elegies. 
Long enough court etiquette has proclaimed hypocritical mourn- 
ing periods. Nations should wear mourning only for their bene- 
factors. The representatives of nations should recommend only the 
heroes of humanity for homage. 

Congress has ordered in the fourteen confederated states a mourn- 
ing period of two months for the death of Franklin, and America 
at this moment acquits its tribute of veneration for one of the 
fathers of its constitution. 

Would it not be worthy of you, gentlemen, to join in this truly 
religious act, to participate in this homage rendered before the 
entire world both to the rights of man and to the philosopher who 
has contributed most to spreading them throughout the world. 
Antiquity would have raised altars to this mighty genius, who 
for the advantage of human beings, embraced both heavens and 
earth in his thoughts, who was able to conquer both thunderbolts 
and tyrants. Free and enlightened Europe owes at least a token 
of remembrance and regret to one of the greatest men who have 
ever served philosophy and liberty. 

I propose that it be decreed that the National Assembly for three 
days wear mourning for Benjamin Franklin. 

The place in which this stirring tribute was deliveredthe floor 
of the National Assembly contributed to the dramatic intensity 
of Mirabeau's words, and his voice and oratorical skill made an 
unforgettable impression upon his auditors. 2 His speech immedi- 
ately won international attention because of its compactness, 
cogency, and intellectual ingenuity. It contained a single idea an 
idea to grip the imagination of the world that had not before 
realized the significance of the revolutions in the two hemi- 
spheres. The age of privilege had given way to the age of merit, 
Franklin was the symbol of the new order, and Mirabeau's speech 
was the agent to crystallize it in men's minds. 

The Assembly applauded Mirabeau with transport, mourning 


was decreed for a period of three days, and the discourse was or- 
dered to be printed and circulated. A member of the right raised 
doubts about the authenticity of the news of Franklin's death, but 
was assured of its truth by La Rochefoucauld and Lafayette. 8 Ac- 
cording to legend, the decree proved very embarrassing for Robes- 
pierre, who was then a delegate and very poor. He is supposed to 
have borrowed from a much taller man a black coat, which was 
so long that it trailed on the ground. 4 

It should not be overlooked that the homage paid to Franklin 
was the first honor of the kind ever to be accorded by the Assem- 
bly. The full significance of the gesture was pointed out in the 
Journal de la Socitte de 1789, 24 juillet 1790. By consecrating 
the memory of Franklin, the Assembly had symbolically em- 
braced and professed his doctrine an action that served as a fore- 
runner of the act to abolish titles and the nobility, for the great- 
est honor that a man could hope from his peers had been ac- 
corded to a journeyman printer. Until that moment, in defer- 
ence to the custom of deuil de cour (court-mourning), the whole 
nation had been merely an antechamber of Versailles; the entire 
population had been constrained to envelop itself in black at the 
decease of a crowned embryo or of a collateral despot. But by 
honoring Franklin, the National Assembly had converted deuil 
de cour to deuil de nation (national mourning). At this moment 
the French Assembly became "the representative assembly of the 
human race, the Areopagus of the universe. What the Delphic 
oracle had done for Socrates, it had done for Franklin; it had 
declared him the greatest, that is, the wisest of mortals." Louis 
Marie Prudhomme in his Revolutions de Paris (June 5-12, 1790) 
declared that this sublime gesture gave hope that the French 
might eventually surpass the ancient Romans, that by this single 
act all the insane periods of state mourning forced upon them 
by their tyrants were expiated. 

Brissot, writing in the same strain, asserted that the Assembly 
acquired honor and glory by its action, that the homage to Frank- 
lin elevated the Assembly to a sublime height beyond that of 
any other political body in Europe. 5 It must be remembered 
that at this moment the French Revolution had not initiated its 
most drastic reforms. Brissot complimented the Assembly on its 
victory over prejudice in paying homage to a man who from the 


profession of journeyman printer and colporteur rose to the rank 
of legislator and helped to place his nation among the powers of 
the earth. 

After Mirabeau's own death, Chenier put the theme of his 
discourse into verse. 6 

Adoptez ces lugubres marques, 
Franais qui chdrissez les lois! 
On porte le deuil des monarques; 
Un seul grand hotnme vaut cent rois. 
Ce Franklin, qui dans TAmerique 
Fit regner la raison publique, 
Au monde etait plus precieux 
Que tous ces princes dont la gloire 
Expire et s'&eint dans I'histoire, 
D&s qu'on leur a ferm6 les yeux. 

Not all was sweetness and light, however, even at the epoch 
of Mirabeau's speech. Prudhomme soon moderated his initial en- 
thusiasm. In the next number of his journal (June 12-19), he re- 
ported that the mourning that had been observed for Franklin 
had overheated the heads of some Frenchmen. "They do not 
realize that there is in the beautiful, in the pathetic, a point be- 
yond which one finds only exaggeration and ridicule." A ca& had 
been turned into a temple, for example, by being draped in black 
in the fashion of a church prepared for a funeral ceremony. The 
bust of Franklin "had been placed under a pall between cypress 
branches. The word vir had been inscribed at the base of the 
bust, and on the door of the 'chapel' the first words of Mirabeau's 
discourse, 'Franklin est mort/ An orator pronounced a funeral 
oration, and almsgiving concluded the ceremonies and undoubt- 
edly atoned for the patriotic inconsistencies of these good citizens." 

The royalist organ I' Ami du Roi (June 12, 1790) remarked 
that no doubt America owed Franklin a debt of gratitude. Mira- 
beau's eulogy was merited perhaps, "but in making it the orator 
had elevated his hero to such an elevation that he, so to speak, 
made him unrecognizable." Another journalist, Marat, whose po- 
litical views were the extreme opposite, nevertheless agreed with 
this opinion probably because he had no love for either Frank- 
lin or Mirabeau. He published an essay in his Ami du peuple 
(June 16, 1790) that could well bear the title, "Humbug con- 


cerning Franklin." Several years earlier Marat had treated Frank- 
lin's electrical discoveries in a patronizing manner, apparently an 
outgrowth of his bellicose spirit. 7 He had once invited Franklin 
to witness his own electrical experiments. Franklin had admired 
his dexterity, but treated his knowledge as superficial. Marat im- 
mediately set out to destroy Franklin as he had previously at- 
tempted to destroy the reputation of Newton's Optics. To this 
end, he invited Voltaire as honor guest to witness further experi- 
ments, but Voltaire also went away without giving his approba- 
tion. 8 Marat, in his essay on Mirabeau's discourse, remarked that 
all that was missing on this day of exalted sentiments, noble 
maxims, and edifying scenes was a little sincerity and good faith. 
The whole proceedings he condemned as farcical. 

At the reading of this touching motion I was unable to fight off 
a melancholy sentiment, and I regretted bitterly that it was not 
made by some good patriot. Yes, it is time that the people stopped 
prostrating themselves before the idols of fortune and that they 
learned to respect their defenders, to cherish their benefactors, to 
feel their loss, and to demonstrate publicly their affliction. Doubt- 
less Franklin was one of the liberators of his country, one of the 
first to declare himself against the tyrannical government of Great 
Britain. He swore to it an eternal hatred; he devoted all of his 
efforts to casting off its yoke, to ruin the empire, and he never 
contradicted himself. 

Marat did not object to the eulogy of Franklin he had contrib- 
uted his own faint praise but he felt that Mirabeau had donned 
the mask of patriotism to conceal his own authoritarian record. 
He charged that the greatest enemy of public liberty had pro- 
posed honor to the apostle of liberty and that he had done so to 
gain a false popularity. Even Mirabeau's oratorical skill, he 
argued, is not what it seems. "Although he does not lack elo- 
quence, it is, however, to his vast lungs that he owes his success, 
the prodigious ascendancy he holds over our deputies, who are 
contented meekly to echo the views of the priesthood." Marat 
had consequently a hundred times wished Mirabeau an eternal 
whooping-cough; Mirabeau's good health he considered a public 

Finally, there appeared in the Apocalypse a very amusing and 
mordant satire from the royalist point of view on the mourning 


for Franklin a report of a ceremony purported to have taken 
place at the Jacobins Club. 9 At these alleged proceedings, Mira- 
beau proposed mourning for six days, but the other members con- 
sidered such a long period extremely inconvenient. They engaged 
therewith in a debate on the appropriate colors for their observ- 
ance, none of them relishing the traditional black. Each member 
argued for a different color until one of them proposed to sub- 
mit the question to the committee on the constitution. The 
Apocalypse then ridicules an imaginary ceremony during which 
La Rochefoucauld pronounces a funeral oration. 

As a matter of fact, the first official eulogy of Franklin actually 
to be pronounced in France was that delivered June 13 by La 
Rochefoucauld before the Societ de 1789, two days after Mira- 
beau's discourse. 10 Probably it was La Rochefoucauld himself 
who acquainted Mirabeau with the news of Franklin's death, for 
he had learned it himself from a letter that Benjamin Vaughan 
wrote to him, June 4, 1790,** in which letter Vaughan asked that 
La Rochefoucauld communicate the news of Franklin's death to 
Lafayette, Mirabeau, and Target. He asked in addition that La 
Rochefoucauld disclose the fact to the National Assembly and 
that Le Roy announce it to the Academy of Science and to Frank- 
lin's friends at Passy. Apparently La Rochefoucauld deferred to 
Mirabeau in the Assembly because of the latter's superior tal- 
ents at oratory. Paradoxically, La Rochefoucauld's eulogy at the 
Societ6 de 1789 presents the most authentic view of Franklin's 
career, but is the least effusive and emotional in style. Based di- 
rectly on the manuscript of Franklin's Memoirs then in his pos- 
session, it consists for the most part of a chronological record of 
Franklin's life. Despite La Rochefoucauld's friendship and inti- 
mate association with Franklin, he allows himself only a few per- 
sonal references or digressions. Of all the eulogies, it is the closest 
to Franklin's own smooth, clear, and precise style, presenting the 
facts without emotion or exaggeration. Franklin would probably 
have preferred this to all the other pronouncements; yet it is the 
most obscure, not listed in most bibliographies of Franklin ma- 
terials. In addition to details from Franklin's autobiography, and 
a section on Franklin's unicameral theories, which has been dis- 
cussed in a previous chapter, La Rochefoucauld gives one or two 
personal anecdotes. He had made Franklin's acquaintance many 


years previously on a voyage to London. It was he who had taken 
Turgot to visit Franklin, and he had experienced great joy in 
seeing these two great men embrace for the first time. On the 
day Franklin signed the treaty ending the American war he said 
to La Rochefoucauld, "Could I have hoped at my age to have 
experienced such happiness?" Of his literary work, La Roche- 
foucauld observed that he produced nothing but short pieces, "but 
all, even his pleasantries, carried the imprint of his genius of ob- 
servation and his mild philosophy. . . . He knew how to reduce 
useful truths to maxims easy to retain, sometimes in proverbs and 
in little tales." La Rochefoucauld generously closed his remarks 
with a forecast of Condorcet's formal eulogy, which was to be 
the "precursor of history, which will place the name of Franklin 
among the names of the most celebrated benefactors of hu- 

Preceding Condorcet, Michaud pronounced his poetic eulogy 
at the Lodge of the Nine Sisters, July i4. 12 Then the abb Fauchet 
delivered a Civic Eulogy in the name of the Commune of Paris, 
July 21, in the Halle des bleds of the Rotund. 13 "It was entirely 
draped in black. A pulpit had been erected, in front of which had 
been placed the bust of Franklin on a kind of altar. . . . The 
Commune of Paris, several members of the National Assembly, 
Bailly [the mayor] and Lafayette were present at the cere- 
monies." 14 Apparently because of all these dignitaries there arose 
a question of protocol, for I 1 Ami du Roi reported, July 23, that 
"the deputation which the assembly sent to the ceremony had not 
been received with the proper honors due to the representatives 
of the governing body of the nation, for there arose at the begin- 
ning of the proceedings a ridiculously serious discussion on the 
ceremony to be observed in receiving deputations." 

Unlike La Rochefoucauld and later eulogists, Fauchet did not 
attempt to summarize Franklin's entire career, but limited him- 
self to merely two aspects, his moral or religious opinions and his 
legislative career. He proposed to leave to scientific societies and 
learned groups the honor of eulogizing Franklin's intellectual 
achievements for the reason that these were the only ones capable 
of picturing the scientist or the scholar. Fauchet felt qualified to 
treat only his theories of social morality and his contributions to 
the liberty of nations. Indeed Fauchet's oration is as much a pub- 


lie plea for enlightened morality, reason, and toleration in reli- 
gion and social legislation as it is a tribute to Franklin. Fauchet, 
along with Condorcet, Nicolas Bonneville, and later, Thomas 
Paine, was a leading member of Le Cercle Social, a political- 
philanthropic club with Masonic antecedents, which professed 
the same idealistic purpose as the French Revolution itself, the 
regeneration of the human race. Condorcet and Bonneville em- 
phasized the Masonic aspects of the club, believing that the spirit 
of rationalism and free inquiry held the solution of the problems 
of the Revolution, whereas Fauchet emphasized the Christian ele- 
ments of brotherhood and faith. Fauchet's eulogy of Franklin is 
a public manifesto of these ideas. 

Fauchet points out that Franklin's father emigrated to America 
in order to resist religious persecution, for the English, who are 
very changeable in matters of religion, have always been perse- 
cutors. After delineating Franklin's humble origin and his earliest 
trade as a candle-maker, Fauchet compares him to a French 
bishop with the same origin, a passage that was later satirized. 
Jumping to Franklin's sojourn in Philadelphia, Fauchet warmly 
praises that city and William Perm. Philadelphia, he maintains, 
is worthy of being called "the capital of humanity." "It is open 
to all human nature without restriction, for the law which for- 
bids atheists and idlers admission to the city of brotherly love 
as not being men presents, as Franklin himself nobly said, only 
a comminatory exception without effect, 'for if there existed an 
atheist in the rest of the world, he would be converted on enter- 
ing a city where everything is so fine/ " This observation, which 
Fauchet characterizes as worthy of Franklin's nobility and wis- 
dom, is actually not Franklin's at all, but Dubourg's. It comes 
straight from the preface to his edition of Franklin's (Euvres 
This tribute to Philadelphia leads to a long section in which 
Fauchet explains why he, a Catholic priest, is able to eulogize 
Quakers and Franklin, the philosopher of protestantism par ex- 
cellence, "who without the perfection of belief had the perfection 
of evangelical benevolence." Obviously addressing an audience 
of Catholics, Fauchet vigorously defends religious tolerance, argu- 
ing that only God has the right to judge conscience. He admits 
the truth of the maxim that outside of Catholicism there is no 
salvation, but he broadens his definition of Catholicism to include 


all men of good conscience. "It is among the avowed principles 
of the catholic church that all those who faithfully observe natu- 
ral law, that is, all virtuous men, belong to the true church." 

As an example of Franklin's dedication to the religion of vir- 
tue, Fauchet cites and translates Franklin's "Parable Against Per- 
secution" and Franklin's epitaph in which his life is compared 
to a book, which he hopes will be reissued in an improved edi- 
tion. 16 Fauchet praises the evangelical faith and the religious hope 
of this sentiment. 

This is not a place for a detailed discussion of Franklin's reli- 
gious views, but it is nevertheless appropriate to contrast Fauchet's 
tribute to Franklin's religion of virtue with a conversation that 
allegedly took place between Marbois and John Adams in June, 
1779, when both were crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Adams re- 
cords in his diary that he hinted that Franklin had no religion. 17 

"No," said M. Marbois, "Mr Franklin adores only great Nature, 
which has interested a great many people of both sexes in his favor." 
"Yes," said I, laughing, "all the atheists, deists, and libertines, as 
well as the philosophers and ladies, are in his train, another Vol- 
taire, and thence" "Yes," said M. Marbois, "he is celebrated as the 
great philosopher and the great legislator of America." "He is," 
said I, "a great philosopher, but as a legislator of America he has 
done very little/' 

Adams is as wrong about Franklin's philosophic acquaintances in 
France as he is about his legislative accomplishments. As we have 
already seen, Franklin's closest friends in France were not the 
atheists and libertines, but priests and constitutional moderates. 
Apart from his feminine conquests, his closest friends seem to 
have been Turgot, Dubourg, Le Veillard, Le Roy, La Rochefou- 
cauld, du Pont de Nemours, Cabanis, and the abb6s de la Roche, 
Morellet, and Soulavie. 

Fauchet hardly merits inclusion in this list, although he 
claimed to have dined with Franklin several times in his apart- 
ments in Passy. By means of his own observation or the sugges- 
tions of Fleury and Le Roy, he discovered Franklin's fondness 
for attractive women and his uniform success with the fair sex. 
This information Fauchet uses to praise Franklin's psychological 
penetration; he argues that Franklin's knowledge of human na- 
ture revealed to him that women are the arbiters of morality and 


that he devoted himself to winning their graceful cooperation 
in seeking the triumph of virtue. Franklin's writings, Fauchet 
declares, are addressed to all conditions and ages of mankind, and 
all reflect his desire to serve society and virtue. He descended "to 
the most naive details; to the most ingenuous familiarities; to the 
first principles of the rural, commercial, civil and patriotic life; 
to the conversation of children and old men, filled with the 
verdure and the maturity of wisdom. In inculcating morality, this 
virtuous man gave to his modest lessons the immense weight of 
his reputation as one of the foremost scientists of the universe." 

Turning to the second phase of his discourse, Franklin's politi- 
cal career, Fauchet describes an imaginary monument erected in 
the midst of the Atlantic Ocean. A pyramid bears the august 
visage of Franklin, and on the two sides facing America and Eu- 
rope are inscribed the words, "Men, love humanity; be free and 
open the doors of the nation to all." In this section Fauchet pre- 
sents some of the principal political events in Franklin's life, his 
tenure as postmaster in the colonies and his appearance before 
the House of Commons in London. Francois L. T. de Fleury, 
Lieutenant-Colonel in the Continental Army, had apparently 
seen some of Franklin's plans for the Pennsylvania militia in the 
French and Indian War and had mistaken them for early military 
planning for the Revolution. On the basis of Fleury's notes, 
Fauchet reported, "The philosopher of humanity, the friend of 
peace, Franklin, held in readiness for ten years, all the plans of 
the insurgent army. The inventories of regiments and companies, 
the accounts, the instructions, all the military details written in 
his hand a decade before the insurrection and placed in the 
Philadelphia archives attest to the extent and the prescience of 
his thoughts." 

In a passage that was later scorned for its ludicrousness, Fauchet 
described Franklin's mission to France. "He left at a moment's 
notice; neither he nor his country owned a piece of gold; he ar- 
rived at Paris with a cargo of tobacco as in the past at the mo- 
ment when Holland sought her liberty, her deputies came to 
Brussels with a convoy of herring to pay their expenses." This un- 
fortunate reflection was copied verbatim in a life of Franklin at- 
tributed to J. B. Say. 18 Like La Rochefoucauld, Fauchet suggests 
that Franklin's constitution of Pennsylvania was the nucleus of 


the national governments of the United States and France. Join- 
ing primitivist theories with the doctrine o natural rights, he 
argues that "the rights of man were developed for the first time in 
laws simple and fertile like those of nature; the rights of citi- 
zens are based upon the fundamental bases of society." Fauchet 
concludes with the exhortation to his fellow-citizens to regard 
Franklin as one of the principal founders of the French constitu- 
tion, which aims to attain the full elevation of reason and justice 
and the perfection of the order of nature and of society, and which 
will become the beacon light of the human race. 

In the printed version of his discourse, Fauchet adds a long 
letter from Le Roy, giving additional biographical information, 
much of which is erroneous. Le Roy's only authentic information 
not available in other sources is his account of dining with Frank- 
lin on the day Lord Stormont left Paris because of the French 
rupture with England. Franklin, ordinarily very calm and tran- 
quil, appeared to him on this day transformed with joy. Of chief 
value is Le Roy's interpretation of Franklin's character. As Pro- 
fessor Chinard remarks, it can hardly be surpassed as a thumbnail 
portrait. 19 

Tranquil, calm and circumspect, like the people of his country, 
one is unable to cite during his entire sojourn here amid the deli- 
cate circumstances in which he found himself, a word, a reflection 
with which one could reproach him or which could compromise 
him, which is indeed rare for a man whom everybody observed 
closely in view of the role he played here. He had all the courage 
necessary to meet emergencies the type of firm courage which be- 
longs to superior minds, who, having considered everything, con- 
sider emergencies as the necessary and inevitable consequence of 
the order of things. As for his mind, he had a particular charac- 
teristic which has not been sufficiently noticed, which was of always 
considering in any circumstance the most simple point of view. In 
his philosophical and political views, he always seized in every 
question the simplest aspect. If it was an explanation in natural 
philosophy, he did the same thing. In the arrangement of a ma- 
chine, it was the same procedure. Whereas the generality of men 
arrive at the true and the simple only after a long circuit and 
multiplied efforts, his excellent mind, by a happy privilege, led 
him to the simplest means to explain the arranged phenomenon, 
to construct the apparatus which he needed, finally, to find the 
expedients the most proper to bring to a successful conclusion the 
projects or commissions with which he was charged. 


Fauchet's eulogy was given a very poor reception by the press, 
including representatives of all shades of political opinion. A con- 
servative royalist organ, Les Actes des Apotres, devoted five pages 
to ridicule of his style, attacking particularly his habit of men- 
tioning crude and mundane objects amidst sonorous and senten- 
tious phrases. 20 Considered most ludicrous were Fauchet's refer- 
ences to Franklin's candle-making, "the cargo of tobacco with 
which Franklin arrived in Paris, not having a piece of gold," and 
"the convoy of herring with which the deputies from Holland 
formerly came to Brussels." The Mercure de France, an eclectic 
review, accused Fauchet of bombast, poor taste, and empty decla- 
mation. 21 Les Revolutions de Paris, a radical organ, ridiculed 
Fauchet's affected sublimity and condemned him for addressing 
himself to the mayor instead of first of all to the public. 22 This 
seems a rather unreasonable objection since the occasion repre- 
sented an official gesture of the municipality. After enumerating 
a number of particular objections to Fauchet's falsely sublime and 
ludicrous sentiments, the reviewer concluded that the discourse 
may have given pleasure through the magic of utterance, but the 
silent reading of it was hardly supportable. "One perceives 
throughout an immoderate ambition to please by singularity, 
scant justness in the accessory ideas (the principal ideas are com- 
mon to all those who have written for the Revolution), a pusil- 
lanimous discretion for every special interest, and everywhere 
truth sacrificed for the desire of producing an effect." 

The Journal General de France objected to Fauchet's elaborate 
praise of the Pennsylvania constitution and suggested that he 
deliberately concealed the fact that the new constitution of the 
United States was closer to that of England than to the one 
Franklin sponsored. 25 "But he believed no doubt that it was not 
necessary to reason too logically in order to carry away the crowd. 
He is right, and a discourse more solid than his would have had 
less success. Piled up apostrophes, the words patriotism, liberty, 
and universal fraternity, rang out under the vaults of the hall. A 
little verve in some passages, a strong and sonorous voice, that is 
all that was needed, and everyone left persuaded that M. Fauchet 
was more eloquent than Bossuet." 

Coridorcet's eulogy that followed, November 13, 1790, does not 
develop merely one or two particular themes like Fauchet's but 


elaborates the ideological significance of Franklin's career. 24 Al- 
though speaking as the representative o the Academy of Sciences, 
Condorcet devotes practically no attention to Franklin's scien- 
tific discoveries. 

We have already pointed out that there exist four manuscript 
drafts of Condorcet's eulogy. 25 The third draft, the most interest- 
ing, contains a number of passages that Condorcet deleted in the 
final version. 

A mystery surrounds Condorcet's source for the following pas- 
sage on Franklin's colonial currency scheme, which was not car- 
ried over to the final draft. 

A long time previously he had brought about a new creation of 
paper money in the state of Pennsylvania. The majority of wage- 
earners had no sooner put aside some savings than they hastened 
into business, and their number still very small in relation to that 
of the proprietors had pushed the value of their wages very high. 
It was at the same time the prices-current in England and not the 
American specie which controlled the prices of manufactured ob- 
jects and even of a large number of commodities which had to be 
imported from Europe. A paper money was then necessary, and this 
necessity maintained its value. Interest was paid on this money as 
one would have paid for the silver which this paper replaced, and 
as the state reserved the right to withdraw it at certain periods from 
those who had borrowed it, it would be maintained as long as it 
never exceeded the demand and the amount advanced to indi- 
viduals never exceeded a certain part of their wealth. 

None of this economic discussion appears in Franklin's Memoirs, 
which states merely that Franklin composed a pamphlet, The Na- 
ture and Necessity of a Paper Currency. This pamphlet was not 
translated into French, and even in English it was impossible to 
find at the end of the century. There seems to be no explanation 
for Condorcet's knowledge of Franklin's currency scheme unless 
he received it directly from Franklin himself or indirectly from 
Turgot or, more probably, Thomas Paine, who also wrote on 
Franklin's project. 

Condorcet deleted also from his final draft a long paragraph 
concerning Franklin's vegetarianism as well as original comments 
on Franklin's relations with George III. 

In the history of thought Condorcet is considered as an ideol- 
ogist, an advocate of idealistic reforms, and, in analyzing the ca- 


reer o Franklin, he emphasizes episodes favorable to his own 
theories of perfectibility. Even though Franklin is noted for his 
practical experimental method in both science and politics, he was 
a projector in his early youth, and throughout his life he en- 
visaged many schemes of moral and social reform that admirers 
of his practical good sense might call visionary. Condorcet con- 
sidered his scheme to obtain moral perfection as essentially the 
same that Pythagoras had conceived and executed more than 2000 
years previously, but with different means. It had been common- 
place to designate Franklin as the Pythagoras of the new world, 
but Condorcet was the first to develop an extended parallel be- 
tween the two sages. 

The Greek philosopher wished by the force of habit to substitute 
for natural impulses or sentiments the principles with which he 
believed it necessary to inspire men; the American philosopher 
wished only to purify, fortify, and direct the movements of nature. 
The one proposed to subdue man and to transform him; the other 
aspired only to enlighten and to perfect him. The one had formed 
a system which could in one nation at a given period of time pro- 
duce a fortunate revolution and amaze the populace by great vir- 
tues, but which soon, overwhelmed by the irresistible force of na- 
ture the laws of which it had opposed, was reduced to exist only 
in memory. The methods of the other, conforming to the laws of 
nature, suited to all countries and to all times, led to a slow but 
lasting perfection, and, without producing the glory of any cen- 
tury, could contribute to the happiness of all. 

Using as a focus of discussion two treaties with the Indians in 
which Franklin participated, Condorcet attributes to Franklin 
primitivistic theories that are Condorcet's own. In his Memoirs 
Franklin says nothing whatsoever about the moral characteristics 
of American aborigines, and the only work in which he does treat 
the subject that Condorcet could have read was the Remarks 
concerning the Savages of North America and, possibly, the 
"Mithologie et Morale Iroquoises" in the Ephemerides du Ci- 
toyen. It is possible though that Condorcet acquired his notions 
of Franklin's primitivism from conversation rather than from 
printed works. That Franklin held these opinions is seen in his 
marginal notations in a British pamphlet, Reflections Moral and 
Political on Great Britain and Her Colonies, 1770. Here Frank- 
lin asserts, "Happiness is more generally & equally diffused among 


Savages than in our Societies. The Care & Labour of providing 
for artificial and fashionable Wants, the Sight of so many Rich 
wallowing in superfluous Plenty, whereby so many are kept poor 
& distressed by Want: The Insolence of Office, the Snares & Plagues 
of Law, the Restraints of Custom, all contribute to disgust them 
with what we call civil Society." 26 Whatever his source, Condorcet 
concludes that Franklin had a low opinion of the achievements 
of civilization for the masses. According to his interpretation, 
Franklin "found that we had done much for the class of enlight- 
ened men, but little for the generality of the human species, and 
that if the virtuous man who exercises his reason is superior to the 
inhabitant of the forests of Ohio, the ordinary man has often 
merely changed his savage ferocity for debasing vices and his ig- 
norance for prejudices." Condorcet held that Franklin "contrasts 
the native good sense of the Indians with the arrogant reason of 
civilized men, their unalterable calm and profound indifference 
with the passions which arouse us by imaginary interests. He ap- 
peared to believe that the savage differed less than the greater 
part of us from the ideal of man perfected by reason without 
ceasing to be submitted to nature." Condorcet's primitivistic 
proclivities appear also as he contrasts the new American nation- 
its virtues derived from its proximity to naturewith the Euro- 
pean world its corruptions based upon centuries of civilization. 
"One must not conclude that the Americans surpass us in intelli- 
gence; but men agree easily when a mild equality has preserved 
them from the sophisms of interest and vanity: truth is easy to 
discover among a burgeoning people without prejudices, and the 
old nations have need of all the resources of instruction, all the 
strength of genius, to defend themselves against the systematic 
errors of corruption and habit." 

In treating Franklin's unicameralism, which, as we have already 
seen, Condorcet himself adopted and proposed for the French 
constitution, Condorcet portrays Franklin's theories as evidence 
of optimism and perfectibility. The constitution of Pennsylvania, 
Condorcet maintains, distinguished itself from all the other state 
constitutions by the principle of equality, particularly in its uni- 
cameralism for which Franklin alone was responsible. "He con- 
sidered that wisdom must naturally make rapid progress, espe- 
cially in a land where the revolution was going to provide new 


relations; it was necessary to promote the means o perfecting 
legislation and not encumber it with foreign obstacles. * . . 
Franklin was aware that one may find in the form of the delibera- 
tions of a single assembly all that is necessary to give to its deci- 
sions that caution, that maturity, which guarantees their truth 
and their wisdom, whereas the establishment of two houses per- 
mits the avoidance of new faults only in perpetuating established 
errors." Emphasizing the moral and psychological basis of the 
conflict between the two systems, Condorcet scornfully describes 
the arguments for bicameralism as a result of "that discouraging 
philosophy which considers error and corruption as the habitual 
condition of society, the moments of virtue and reason as a sort 
of prodigy which one must not hope to render permanent." 

As far as political theory is concerned, Condorcet does not at- 
tempt to portray Franklin as a planner or as an ideologist who 
sought to mold his thoughts into systems as Condorcet himself 
is considered to be. Indeed, Condorcet clearly foreshadows the 
conclusions of one of the most recent analysts of Franklin's po- 
litical ideas that he was not a systematic political philosopher, 
that his political thought was pragmatic, that it was based upon 
observation and a strong sense of tactics. 27 

Franklin had not formed a general system of politics; he examined 
questions in proportion as the order of events or his foresight pre- 
sented them to his mind, and he resolved them with the principles 
which he drew from a pure mind and in a just and acute spirit. 
In general he appeared not to seek to give the greatest degree of 
perfection to human institutions all at once; he believed it more 
certain to wait the passage of time; he did not insist upon deliver- 
ing a frontal attack upon abuses, but found it more prudent first 
to attack the errors which are their source. He had in politics as 
in morality this type of indulgence which demands little because 
it hopes much and which pardons at the present in favor of the 
future. ... In a word, his politics was that of a man who believed 
in the power of reason and the reality of virtue and who had wished 
to make himself teacher of his fellow citizens before being called 
to be their legislator. 

As an example of Franklin's tact in political negotiations, Con- 
dorcet explains why Franklin had not suggested means of attack- 
ing England to the French government. He realized that if his 
military strategy failed, France might blame him and lose inter- 


est in the struggle. He attempted instead to keep alive in France 
the concept o the constancy and resources o America. As an ex- 
ample of Franklin's spirit of compromise, Condorcet reports his 
accepting for the sake of unanimity the American constitution 
even though he was opposed to its provisions of two legislative 
houses and the veto power of the president. According to Con- 
dorcet, his political sagacity enabled him to predict the French 
Revolution. "It was easy for him to foresee that a people already 
worthy of liberty must soon win it and that the revolution of 
France like that of America was one of these events which hu- 
man reason can remove from the empire of chance and passion." 

Modern critics have maintained that Franklin made little use 
of the theory of natural rights, especially during his period in 
London as a colonial agent. 28 Condorcet, however, interprets the 
high point of his agency, the appearance before the House of 
Commons, as a defense of the theory. "It was doubtless a magnifi- 
cent spectacle to see the deputy of the free citizens of America 
defending justice and the eternal rights of nature before the men 
who, considering themselves also the representatives of a free 
people, could not without betraying their duty, refuse to regard 
an identical liberty as a property equal and inalienable for the 
entire human race to hear him contrasting the simplicity of cour- 
age and reason with the pride of riches and power." In a sense 
Franklin could be all things to all men. We have seen how the 
physiocrats interpreted his appearance at the bar of the House of 
Commons as a vindication of physiocratic principles. Here Con- 
dorcet sees him upholding the doctrine of natural rights. 

In the final words of his address Condorcet touches upon Frank- 
lin's electrical theories and ends on the note that there is no in- 
compatibility between his political and his scientific discoveries. 
The third draft of his discourse presents a stronger statement of 
the pre-eminence of science and the inevitable march of political 
progress through science than appears in the final form. To illus- 
trate his contention, he contrasts the two revolutions in seven- 
teenth-century England, the earlier in a period of fanaticism 
that of the contemporaries of Penn and the later in a period 
of enlightenmentthat of the contemporaries of Boyle and New- 
ton. One violently enforced a despotism; the other mildly created 
the freest constitution that had existed on the earth and that 


could be surpassed only in a century when the sciences made 
new progress and became more widespread. In defending the role 
of science, he declares that the savants do not refuse their knowl- 
edge to political leaders, for they realize that men must not be left 
subject to ignorance merely because they are subject to servitude. 
The savants do not compromise the cause of liberty by imprudent 
clamor because they recognize that political revolutions like the 
operations of nature have a prescribed course that cannot be dis- 
turbed without delaying or endangering progress. Science needs 
no apology in an enlightened nation that realizes there can be 
no question of choosing between cultivating the sciences or sur- 
rendering to prejudicethat in the order of nature political 
knowledge depends upon scientific knowledge. Those who before 
kings accuse the scientists of being republican and before the 
people accuse them of being despots do so because of chicanery 
and ignorance. They know that people deprived of knowledge 
are easier to deceive than an enlightened people. "They hide their 
desire for power under a false enthusiasm for liberty and seem 
to have divined only too well that under no matter what consti- 
tution an ignorant populace is always enslaved." 

These ideas are toned down somewhat in the printed version. 
Condorcet contrasts the unfruitful attempts of unenlightened 
centuries sullied by wars and massacres with the happy efforts of 
America and France; then he compares the fanatical and blood- 
thirsty revolution of the era of Prynne and Knox in England 
with the peaceable, constitutional change effected in the time of 
Newton and Boyle. He substitutes Prynne and Knox for Perm as 
symbols of the early seventeenth century presumably because 
Perm had been generally considered in France as a democratic 

Contrasting the cultivation of science with submission to preju- 
dice, Condorcet repeats from his earlier draft the assertion that in 
the order of nature political enlightenment is a consequence of 
scientific progress. He duplicates the warning against envious de- 
tractors who accuse the sciences of thriving under despotism, for 
these detractors realize that ignorant people are the easiest to 
control. These demagogues, he adds, fear the patriotism of reason 
and virtue, which hypocrisy cannot imitate. "Hiding their urge to 
dominate under the mask of enthusiasm for liberty, they seem 


to have understood that even under the freest constitutions an 
ignorant people is always enslaved." Condorcet still defends sci- 
ence, but he is less vigorous in suggesting that knowledge is su- 
perior to political institution. 

Despite the principles of revolutionary philosophy that Con- 
dorcet expresses in his eulogy, it was given an unflattering review 
in the Mercure de France?* the reviewer remarking that they had 
had declamation from Fauchet and a philosophical discourse from 
Condorcet, and now he was looking for an oration, both philo- 
sophical and well written. 

Some critics felt that such an oration was supplied in the next 
year by Vicq d'Azyr, Franklin's personal friend and secretary of 
the Royal Society of Medicine. 30 Condorcet's eulogy and Vicq's 
were frequently compared and at least one critic preferred Vicq's. 
This was Lemontey, who several years later became in turn Vicq's 
eulogist at the French Academy. Admitting that Condorcet's dis- 
course possesses ideas, useful opinions, and a certain enthusiasm, 
he argues that this is all extinguished in a verbose and colorless 
style. He feels that Vicq's is superior because of the vigor of his 
talent and the diversity of his knowledge. The eulogy of Franklin, 
considered his chef d'oeuvre, was oddly enough the only one of 
Vicq's fifty orations that was never published in his complete 
works. It had originally been destined for the Memoirs of the 
Royal Society of Medicine, but during the Revolution the manu- 
script passed to the files of the School of Medicine and the ar- 
chives of the Royal Academy of Medicine. Vicq's eulogy created a 
great sensation when delivered March 14, 1791. His first sentence 
especially enjoyed a great vogue and was everywhere repeated: 

Un homme est mort, et deux mondes sont en deuil. 
The printed version, however, reads: 

Un homme est mort, et des nations ont pris le deuil 

a phrase less rhetorical, but more conformable to historical ex- 
actitude. Vicq may have written one, but said the other. 

Of all the eulogists of Franklin, Vicq was the only one to imi- 
tate the theme of the pastoral elegy that we should not weep for 
death. He reminded his auditors that Franklin had lived almost 
as long as his century. "Upon the ladder of life, he always 


ascended, never descended." "He lived long enough to see tran- 
quil days succeed disastrous ones, to enjoy the happiness of his 
countrymen and the respect o two worlds.'* 

Most of Vicq's material came directly from Franklin's Memoirs; 
the rest from personal knowledge or reminiscences of Franklin's 
acquaintances. Vicq interjects few philosophical or political opin- 
ions, but occasionally he presents an individual interpretation of 
an event in Franklin's life. In considering, for example, Frank- 
lin's tale of some very bad poetry he had \mtten in his youth 
that his brother had printed and forced Franklin to hawk on the 
streets of Boston, Vicq was much affected by Franklin's adolescent 
hardship. "When one sees Franklin submitted to such trials," he 
wrote, "one can hardly keep from fearing that amid so many mis- 
fortunes he may lose courage and miss the happy destiny which 
awaits him." 

Like all other Frenchmen, Vicq knew nothing of the original 
Poor Richard's Almanac, to which he devotes special attention, 
but was forced to base all his observations on The Way to Wealth. 
He remarks that Franklin "always places his maxims in the mouth 
of an old man, and to make them even more respected he in- 
voked proverbial language." Vicq gives extended quotations from 
La Science du Bonhomme Richard and follows Fauchet in para- 
phrasing "A Parable Against Persecution" and Franklin's epi- 

Discussing the outbreak of the American Revolution, Vicq com- 
pares Franklin to Cato as the moderator of decisions and con- 
duct, although he considers Franklin less austere and more fortu- 
nate than the Roman hero. Later in France, Franklin appeared as 
the symbol of liberty as well as of virtuous old age. Wherever 
people were found in large numbers, he showed himself as though 
to demonstrate that his interests and theirs were common. "Never 
perhaps was there so much calm and goodness in physiognomy, 
so much harmony in simplicity of apparel, of bearing, of charac- 
ter and of language; never perhaps was to be found an old age 
both so imposing and so amiable." When the time came for leav- 
ing his friends and habitation at Passy to return to America, his 
eyes filled with tears. "I had thought," he said, "that my friends of 
Passy would close my eyes, but destiny confides to others the care 
which I expected from you." 


If there is any identifying characteristic of Vicq's eulogy, it is 
that he devotes more attention than any of his predecessors to 
summarizing Franklin's scientific accomplishments, chiefly elec- 
trical. Undoubtedly with the example of Condorcet in view, Vicq 
concludes his discourse with a parallel between Franklin and 
Pythagoras, but considers them from perspectives that Condorcet 
had not touched. Still emphasizing practical science, Vicq pointed 
out that they both amused themselves with combinations of num- 
bers (Franklin's magic squares and circles). 

Born in the most obscure condition, both gained the confidence 
of their countrymen, to whom they gave lessons and left examples. 
Pythagoras absented himself from his country because it trembled 
under the oppression of tyrants. Franklin did better; he preserved 
his from the evils of slavery. They did not confine themselves to 
discoursing on virtue; both practiced it constantly; both taught 
men the art of self-improvement by a written method. Full of re- 
spect for the sovereign author of the universe, they employed their 
entire lives to seek the true and to do good, that is, to study the 
divinity in his works and to serve him in his designs; both rejected 
the class of nourishment which one obtains only by murder in 
this decision, one obeying an opinion and the other giving way to 
the pure instinct of sentiment. Both knew the value of time and 
the price of silence. Both meditated on the phenomenon of thunder, 
which Pythagoras explained by ingenious systems and Franklin by 
a theory based upon experience. Both lived to an old age and died 
with a celebrity that nothing could augment and nothing could 

One other eulogy characteristic of its author and audience was 
pronounced August 10, 1790, at a memorial observance organized 
by the journeymen printers of Paris. 31 Franklin's bust was ele- 
vated upon a column in the middle of the room, a civic crown 
upon his head. Below were compositors' cases, a press, and other 
symbols of the printing art. While an apprentice delivered the 
oration, others were composing and printing it, and it was dis- 
tributed to the spectators at the conclusion. The speaker knew the 
essential facts of Franklin's life, which he perhaps obtained from 
La Rochefoucauld's eulogy. After a brief r&um6 of Franklin's 
most important political achievements, he asserted that it was not 
Franklin's period of glory and elevation that he wished to con- 
sider, but Franklin's career as journeyman printer and simple 
citizen. Franklin's example, the speaker asserted, would make 


them honor their own estate and make of it an instrument of 
happiness. "Franklin was born as poor as the poorest among us, 
but he had the courage not to be ashamed of poverty." The ora- 
tor urged his auditors to imitate Franklin's reading habits in 
youth, his love of books, and faith in instruction as a defense of 
liberty. Developing the theme that workers must instruct them- 
selves fully in their rights and duties, he exhorted them to follow 
Franklin's example of forming clubs for mutual improvement and 
for exchanging books. Franklin, he asserted, considered the art of 
printing to be the principal lever to be used in overthrowing 
despotism in America. 

After this discourse, another speaker, a soldier of the Battalion 
of Veterans, addressed the same gathering, 32 paying tribute to 
Franklin in an oration that was less a eulogy than a patriotic ef- 
fusion on the ideals of the French Revolution. Although admit- 
ting that free speech is the sine qua non of political liberty, he 
warned the printers against sullying their hands with anti-revo- 
lutionary writings and exhorted them to be their own censors in 
the service of reason and truth. 

Le MoniteuT; July 8, 1790, presented a warm tribute to 
Franklin, in an extract from an anonymous letter from New 
York. Comparison with a document in the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs shows that it is a paraphrase of a report from Louis Otto, 
French consul in New York, to his superior, the Count de Mont- 
morin. 33 

A few minutes before dying, this great man repeated these words, 
founded on the religion that he had made for himself, "that a man 
is perfectly born only after his death." France has lost in him a sin- 
cere friend; America, one of its ornaments; the literary world, a 
man who has enriched it and has created models in several genres 
[fait ^poque en plusieurs genres]. Although the stone, with which 
he was tormented for eight years, and his gradual weakening should 
have prepared the public for the event, it has nonetheless made a 
great sensation. It was about 65 years ago that Franklin arrived in 
Philadelphia as journeyman printer. He was obliged, on arriving, 
to spend several nights in a church, not having the means of pay- 
ing for lodging. He has since been raised to the highest dignities 
that his country can confer. His name is celebrated in the two hemi- 
spheres, and he died at the moment when the calm re-established in 
his country gave the brightest hopes for the future. Few men have 


been so completely happy; few men have so well deserved to be 

It is apparent from these eulogies alone that in France Frank- 
lin was sincerely admired by all classes of society, the high and 
the low, intellectuals and workers. French men of letters accorded 
him a much higher tribute than did his colleagues in the United 
States or England. Neither country produced collections of per- 
sonal reminiscences to match those of Morellet, Cabanis, or de la 
Roche. In England, Franklin was understandably given no official 
eulogy. 34 In America he was accorded only onea half-hearted, 
colorless piece, not worthy to be compared with the warm and 
spirited tributes of La Rochefoucauld, Condorcet, Fauchet, and 
Vicq d'Azyr. The American Philosophical Society appointed as 
its official American eulogist, William Smith, who was actually 
Franklin's principal literary enemy. Throughout his life Smith's 
relations with Franklin had been colored by personal jealousy 
and political disagreement. Benjamin Rush, who was both a genu- 
ine admirer and a close friend of Franklin and who in addition 
was an experienced orator, would have been an appropriate 
choice, but unfortunately destiny limited his participation to 
supplying Smith with biographical details. The latter's eulogy is 
exactly what one would expect from a mind balancing between 
indifference and animosity an artificial, uninspired, rhetorical 
exercise. 85 Strangely enough, no other American body or author 
sought to compensate for the deficiencies of Smith's discourse by 
preparing a supplementary eulogy. Yet such minor figures by 
comparison as James Bowdoin and Cotton Mather were each hon- 
ored with at least a dozen published funeral discourses. Even the 
generality of Americans were less demonstrative than the com- 
mon people of France. Louis Otto reported to his superiors, De- 
cember 12, 1790, that "the memory of Dr. Franklin has been in- 
finitely more honored in France than in America. People are 
hardly susceptible to enthusiasm in this country they praise and 
they blame coldly. General Washington is the only one who has 
the talent of touching the heart of his compatriots and of making 
a durable impression." se From the perspective of the end of the 
eighteenth century, therefore, France, not the United States, 
would seem to be the country of Franklin. 37 



In the course of our survey of the influence of Franklin in France, 
we have seen how Franklin came to adopt his pose of primitive 
moralist and how this pose came to be identified with him in 
popular thought; we have seen Franklin portrayed in French let- 
ters as a symbol not only of primitive morality and daily thrift 
but also of political liberty; and, finally, we have seen the Frank- 
lin of real lifeFranklin the man exposed in his own memoirs 
and light pieces and in the anecdotes and serious eulogies and 
souvenirs of his friends. 

From this mass of evidence certain conclusions are self-evident 
and undeniable. Others are merely conjectural. 

First of all, it would seem that the actual information that was 
available to the French public concerning the achievements and 
character of Franklin would hardly justify the extreme adulation 
with which he was received. Today we know Franklin as a man 
of extremely versatile talents, but the French knew him only as 
scientist, man of letters, and diplomat. 

In his character as scientist, few laymen at that time under- 
stood the significance of his electrical theories. The greater part 
were forced to accept their value on hearsay. 

In his character of man of letters, nearly everyone knew the 
Science du Bonhomme Richard, but even if everyone viewed it 
with the eyes of Dubourg, Condorcet, or Fauchet, this work by 
itself would hardly elevate Franklin to a position of great emi- 
nence. His Memoirs and some of his bagatelles were known in 
France after his death, but they never even approached the enor- 
mous vogue of Bonhomme Richard. In a sense the French public 
even Franklin's intimate friends did not understand or cor- 
rectly interpret his literary work. As we have seen, Polly Baker 
was accepted au serieux, and Poor Richard was considered a work 
of sublime morality. The editors of the Ephernerides saw in his 
Indian farce concerning William Henry only "inythologie et mo- 


rale Iroquoises," and other men o letters considered his baga- 
telles in the light of opuscules moraux. Only his Memoirs seem 
to have been understood in the sense in which Franklin really 
intended them. 

In his character as diplomat, Franklin's achievements were truly 
magnificent. But his contemporaries viewed only his successes 
without considering the means by which they were attained. It is 
doubtful that the French public realized the qualities of finesse 
and tact necessary for the accomplishment of his mission. They 
knew, of course, that largely through his efforts the French gov- 
ernment had agreed to the treaty of alliance with America. But 
even before this treaty he had been universally considered a sym- 
bol of American liberty and the spirit of independence. 

The question immediately occurs: Was Franklin known to his 
French contemporaries then as a symbol or as a man? We have 
seen that there were some relatively faithful reports of his activi- 
ties and personality. The portrayal in the Memoires secrets was 
somewhat caustic and that in the Espion anglois somewhat senti- 
mental, but together they present a detailed and reasonably ac- 
curate view of his life in Paris. These seem to have had little ef- 
fect, however, on popular opinion. From the moment of his ar- 
rival in France in 1776, Franklin became identified with Father 
Abraham. He stood as the symbol of prudential wisdom and patri- 
archal morality, which Father Abraham also represents to a lim- 
ited degree, and of political liberty and Quaker manners, which 
Father Abraham has absolutely nothing to do with. By means of 
Turgot's epigram Franklin's prior scientific achievement was 
brought into harmony with his political renown, and by and 
large the moral and political aspects of his reputation engulfed 
the scientific. Turgot's epigram is in itself evidence of the sym- 
bolic force of Franklin's personality and most of the formal liter- 
ary tributes to Franklin, especially those in verse, treat him as 
symbol alone and ignore the real man. 

This does not mean, however, that in French thought and his- 
tory Franklin's influence was that of a symbol alone. In addition 
to his achievements in negotiating the alliance between France 
and America, he had a direct influence upon actual events of the 
French Revolution. Indeed, he may have been partly aware of 
the effect his writings would have on French history. One may 


ask, for example, whether he planned the publication of his let- 
ter on the Society of the Cincinnati because of the situation in 
America or because of the situation in France. On the surface it 
would seem that the letter was directed exclusively toward Amer- 
icathe accepted view but analysis seems to show that the most 
telling blows are directed against the European system of aris- 
tocracy. Whether intended primarily for France or not, the work 
because of Mirabeau's translation and many subsequent reprint- 
ings had an undeniable influence on French public opinion. As 
we have seen, the same is true of Franklin's unicameral theories. 

If we accept the conclusion that Franklin was better known in 
France as a symbol than as a real person, we must not stop here. 
We must still inquire why Franklin rather than someone else 
should have been considered as the symbol of American liberty. 
John Adams, for example, Franklin's fellow commissioner at 
Paris, certainly had equal literary talents, and his diplomatic skill 
was probably not inferior to Franklin's. Yet Adams made practi- 
cally no impression upon the French public. Today hardly any- 
one would recognize either his name or his physiognomy. Even 
in America, where Adams later became president, few but profes- 
sional historians could now recognize his portrait. Yet Franklin's 
features are even today well known in France, and during the 
eighteenth century they were almost as familiar as Voltaire's. The 
only explanation seems to be that Franklin's personality his hu- 
man qualities endeared him to the French people, whereas 
Adams lacked this personal appeal. In any case Adams could 
hardly have posed as the symbol of American liberty, for in many 
ways his ideas were extremely conservative. Franklin was, of 
course, the ideal symbol, for he really believed in political and 
individual liberty. 

Naturally enough, the French were by no means unanimous in 
revering the name of Franklin. For contrast let us put side by side 
two views. First a sardonic one: 

This gentleman became very skilled in electricity. He forced the 
thunder to fall where he ordered it; he commanded it to withdraw 
and it withdrew. He did surprising things. He electrified a dog on 
the opposite bank of a river, making him, howl like a martyr with- 
out having the least suspicion of the author of his sufferings. 


Next, a panegyrical view of the same achievement: 

Jupiter who disposed of the thunder at his pleasure was a fable 
in Greece, and in our day it has become a reality in America. 
Franklin said to the thunder, "fall," and the thunder fell. But 
whereas the god of Greece governed the thunder like a man to 
seek revenge and to destroy, the man of America governed it like 
a god; he ended its destruction and annulled it by diverting it from 
human beings. 

Contrary opinions such as these existed, but, as we have seen, the 
favorable even the adulatory were far in the majority. 

This undeniable fact leads to another interesting point of spec- 
ulation. Why did Franklin appear as a greater hero in France 
than he did in his own country? Again evidence from belles let- 
tres may provide the explanation. As Chamfort remarked in com- 
paring Turgot's epigram with the verse of Odell, perhaps the 
contrast betokens a difference in the spirit of the two peoples. 
Perhaps the personality of Franklinsymbolic or real was more 
congenial to the somewhat effusive and emotional French than to 
the more austere and conventional Americans of the epoch. It 
may not have been a completely absurd gesture for the French 
to attempt by tracing his genealogy to claim him as a true Gaul. 

Against this hypothesis, however, it must be remembered that 
very little evidence concerning the human side of Franklinhis 
character as a man was available to the masses until after his 
death. At this time appeared the formal eulogies and shortly aft- 
erwards the narratives and anecdotes of Morellet and Cabanis. 
Although some of Franklin's bagatelles appeared concurrently in 
the periodical press, it does not seem that they had a wide circu- 
lation. In other words, the average man had no way of knowing 
Franklin as we know him today or as Mesdames Brillon and Hel- 
vtius knew him then. But as the great historian Michelet recog- 
nized the influence of the masses upon the French Revolution and 
attributed that great social movement to the people themselves 
rather than to the leaders, perhaps we can likewise attribute the 
enormous vogue of Franklin at least partly to the intuition of the 
people. Even if the evidence were incomplete and imperfect, it 
may be that they sensed that here was a man who represented 
true democracy and warm humanity, and that without knowing 
why they did so, they responded intuitively to Franklin's grandeur 
of spirit with almost universal praise and admiration. 



1. CEuvres de Voltaire, ed. Beuchot 
(72 vols.; Paris: J. Didot, 1827- 
1829), I, 289. All translations of 
French texts in this book are 
my own with the exception of 
the passages from Soulavie's 
Mdmoires historiques, which are 
from the London edition of 1802. 

2. Letter to the abbe* Gaultier, 21 
fvrier 1778. CEuvres de Vol- 
taire, LXX, 450. Voltaire became 
acquainted with Franklin as 
early as 1767. He wrote to A. M. 
Mariott, 26 fe"vrier 1767: ". . . 
Si vous voyez M. Franklin, je 
vous supplie, monsieur, de vou- 
loir bien Tassurer de mon es- 
time et de ma reconnaissance." 
CEuvres completes (52 vols.; 
Paris: Gamier frfcres, 1877-1885), 
XLV, 137. 

3. "Extrait d'une Lettre de Charles 
Villette sur Voltaire," La $ouche 
de Fer. No. X. Octobre, 1790, p. 


4. Vie de Voltaire, in CEuvres de 

Voltaire, I, 290. 

5. Lettre LXXXIII, Correspon- 
dance Litteraire (6 vols.; Paris: 
Migneret imprimeur, 1801-1807), 
II, 210-211. 

6. Vie de Voltaire, loc. cit. 

7. La Harpe, loc. cit. 

8. 22 fvrier 1778. 

9. Souvenirs de la marquise de 
Crequy, ed. Maurice Cousin, Cte 
de Courchamps (10 vols.; Paris: 
Gamier frres, 1903), VI, 8. 

10. Francois Astori to Franklin, 
March 13, 1779. Calendar of the 
Papers of Benjamin Franklin in 
the Library of the American 
Philosophical Society, ed, I. 
Minis Hays (5 vols.; Philadel- 
phia: Printed for the American 
Philosophical Society, 1908), II, 

1 1. Letter of Etienne Catherine Bail- 
lot, May i, 1778. Ernest Choul- 
lier, Voltaire et Franklin a I'A- 
cademie des Sciences (Troyes: 
imp. de P. Nouel, 1898), p. 4. 

12. Vie de Voltaire, loc. cit., p. 290. 

13. "Autobiography," Works of John 
Adams (10 vols.; Boston: Little, 
Brown, 1850-1856), in, 147. 

14. Hays, ed., Calendar, IV, 241. Vol- 
taire to Mme. Duboccage, No- 
vember 2, 1777. 

15. Francis Heive", ed., Madame Tus- 
saud's Memoirs and Reminis- 
cences of France (London: Saun- 
ders & Odey, 1838), p. 56. 

16. George de Cadoudal, Les servi- 
teurs des hommes (Paris: C. Dil- 
let, 1864), p. 24. 


i. The following discussion of the 
reception of Franklin's scientific 
works in France is based on L 
Bernard Cohen, ed., Benjamin 
Franklin's Experiments (Cam- 

bridge, Mass.: Harvard Univer- 
sity Press, 1941), pp- 100-118. 
2. Franklin cites this paragraph in 
a letter to Jared Eliot, April 12, 
1753. Albert Henry Smyth, ed., 




The Writings of Benjamin 
Franklin (10 vols.; New York: 
Maonillan Co., 1905-1907), III, 

3. Op. dt. (Paris: chez Rollin, 1752), 

p. 185. 

4. Hays, Calendar, I, 11. 

5. Manuscript letter, March 10, 
1755. New York Historical So- 

6. Smyth, ed., Writings, I, 419. 

7. Cohen, op. cit., pp. 113-116. 

8. Memoirs of the Life of Sir Sam- 
uel Romilly (Third edition, 2 
vols.; London: J. Murray, 1841), 
H, 447-458. 

9. Ephemerides, 1769, I (i), 68. 

10. CEuvres de Turgot, ed. Gustave 
Schelle (5 vols.; Paris: F. Alcan, 
1913-1923), in, 13. 

11. Smyth, ed., Writings, V, 409. 

12. Ephemerides, 1767, I (ii), 5-18. 
The abbe" M. was probably Mo- 

13. Ephemerides, 1768, IV (i), 28-91; 
(ii), 159-192. 

14. Ephemerides, 1769, V (ii), 5-14. 

15. Janvier 1780, Correspondance 
Litteraire, ed. Maurice Tourneux 
(16 vols.; Paris: Gamier frfcres, 
1877-1882), XII, 356-358. Al- 
though I here and elsewhere 
speak o Grimm as author of all 
the letters in this collection, it is 
understood that he had several 

16. Ephemerides, 1769, H (i), 68-78. 
My reason for believing that Du- 
bourg is the author of these let- 
ters is that a contrast between 
agricultural and military estab- 
lishments in America (only agri- 
cultural communities increase in 
population) is found both in 
these letters and in the preface 
to Dubourg's translation of John 
Dickinson's Letters from a Farmer 
in Pennsylvania (Lettres d'un 
fermier de Pensylvanie, aux habi- 
tans de VAmerlque septentrio- 
nale, Amsterdam [i.e. Paris]: Aux 

d^pens de la compagnie, 1769, p. 
xiii). The two letters were re- 
printed from the Ephemerides 
by G. G. de Beaurieu as an ap- 
pendix to his novel Ueleve de la 
nature (Amsterdam 8c Lille: J. B. 
Henry, 1771)- Because of this 
Emile Lgouis has assumed that 
Beaurieu is the author of the let- 
ters (Beaurieu et son eleve de la 
nature, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 
1 9 2 5' P- 7) but Beaurieu no- 
where even suggests that he is. 

17. Ephemerides, 1769, IV (ii), 39-52. 

18. "Achenwall's Observations on 
North America, 1767," Pennsyl- 
vania Magazine, XXVII (1903) 
4-5, 15. Gottfried Achenwall, 
Herrn Hofrath Achenwalls in 
Gottingen Anmerkungen uber 
Nordamerika und uber Dasige 
Grosbritannische Colonien aus 
Mundlichen Nachrichten des 
Herrn Dr. Franklins (Frank- 
furt und Leipzig: 1769). 

19. CEuvres de Turgot, ed. Schelle, 
III, 70. 

20. Ephemdrides, 1772, I (i), 213-227. 

21. Hays, ed., Calendar, I, 140. Baron 
F. de Westerholt to Franklin. 
November 12, 1772. 

22. Ephemerides, 1769, VI (i), 56-78. 

23. For a fuller discussion and evi- 
dence that the work is Franklin's 
see: A. O. Aldridge, "Franklin's 
Deistical Indians," Proceedings 
of the American Philosophical 
Society, XCIV (1950), 398-410. 
James R. Masterson ["A Foolish 
Oneida Tale," American Litera- 
ture, X (1938) 53-65] discusses 
several versions of the tobacco 
story, including that of William 
Henry, but does not attribute it 
to Franklin. 

24. Indian Treaties Printed by Ben- 
. jamin Franklin 1736-1762. With 

an Introduction by Carl Van 
Doren and Historical and Biblio- 
graphical Notes by Julian P. 


Boyd (Philadelphia: Hist Soc. 
Pa., 1938), pp. 72 ff. 

25. Masterson, loc. cit. f points out 26. 
that this version was translated 
into French in Precis de I'etat 27. 
actuel des colonies angloises dans 
I'AmMque septentrionale par 


M. Dominique de Blackford 
(Milan, 1771). 

For more details concerning this 
work see Chapter 11. 
Manuscript letter. Bache Collec- 
tion, Library of the American 
Philosophical Society. 
Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 98-99. 


1. (Euvres (2 vols.; Paris: Quillau 
1'aine*, 1773), II, 171-181. 

2. La science du bonhomme Rich- 
ard, ou moyen facile de payer les 
impots . . . (Philadelphie, et se 
trouve a Paris, chez Ruault, 
1777). There were two editions 
in 1777, two others in 1778. 

3. A. O. Aldridge, "Jacques Bar- 
beu-Dubourg, A French Disciple 
of Benjamin Franklin," Proceed- 
ings of the American Philosoph- 
ical Society, XCV (1951), 342- 


4. Manuscript in Archives Natio- 
nales. Paris. Mi 773. No. 2. 

5. Tome IV, 219-236. 

6. Port Royal, 1. II, chap. XVHI 
(Edition commentaire ... 9 vols.; 
Paris: la Connaissance, 1926- 
1929), II, 457-458. 

7. Smyth, ecu, Writings, VIE, 347. 

8. Jeanne Louise Henriette Cam- 
pan (Genet), Mimoires sur la vie 
de Marie-Antoinette (Paris: Fir- 
min-Didot, s.d.), p. 177. 

9. Essais historiques et politiques 
sur les Anglo-Americains (2 vols.; 
Bruxelles, et se trouve a Paris 
chez 1'auteur), II, 44-47. 

10. A Lausanne: chez Hignon, 1795. 

11. J. Cast&ra, ed., Vie de Benjamin 
Franklin (2 vols.; Paris: Buisson, 
An VI). 

12. Paris: chez Delaunay, Librairie, 

13. 10 octobre 1791. J. L. Tallien re- 
printed this essay in his Ami des 
citoyens, journal fraternel, 19 
octobre 1791. 

14. P. J. B. Buchez & P. C. Roux, 
Histoire parlementaire de la 
Revolution Frangaise (40 vols.; 
Paris: Paulin, 1834-1838), XIV, 


15. Eloge civique de Benjamin 
Franklin (Paris: J. R. Lottin, 
1790), p. 13. 

16. Novembre 1777. Tourneaux, ed., 
Correspondance, XII, 29. 

17. (Euvres diverges (Paris: Guillau- 
min, 1848), p. 614. 

18. La science du bonhomme Ri- 
chard de Benjamin Franklin, 
pre'cedde d'un abregt de la vie 
de Franklin, et suivie de son inter- 
rogatoire devant la Chambre des 
Communes (Paris: Imprimerie 
des Sciences et Arts, An II). Say 
was a director of this press. This 
edition has nothing remarkable 
except a footnote, not found in 
other editions, concerning Fa- 
ther Abraham's statement that a 
creditor has the right to keep his 
debtor in prison for life or to 
sell him as a servant. The foot- 
note merely states: "Example of 
the barbarousness of the English 

19. 30 thermidor An EL 

20. 16 pluvi6se An m. Manuscript 
letter. Archives Nationales. Paris. 
Fi 7 i33i B dossier 6. No. 167. 

21. Sur I' Education nationals dans 
les tats-Unis d'Amerique. Se- 
conde Edition (Paris: Le Nor- 
mant, 1812), p. 34. 

22. Smyth, ed., Writings, IX, 477. 

23. See introduction to: La science 


du bonhomme Richard par 
Franklin, imprimeur, suivi . . . 
du Testament de Fortune' Ricard 
(Paris: Klefer, 1831). 

24. CEuvres completes de Frederic 
Bastiat (6 vols.; Paris: Guillau- 
min, 1854-1855), I, 19. 

25. P. Ronce, Freddric Bastiat, sa vie 
et son oeuvre (Paris: Guillaumin, 
1905), p. 145. 

26. CEuvres du Marquis de Condor- 
cet, public 1 es par A. Condorcet 
O'Connor et M. F. Arago (12 
vols.; Paris: Firmin Didot Freres, 
1847-1849), HI, 378-379- 

27. 23 juin 1791. 

28. 29 septembre 1791. 

29. See especially II, 252, 291; III, 
3 1 * 37* 395- * messidor An III- 
17 normal An IV. 

30. Journal des theatres, ou le nou- 
veau spectateur, Tome Troisi- 
eme, i mars 1778. A similar allu- 
sion exists in [L. S. Mercier] 
Tableau de Paris (12 vols.; Am- 
sterdam: no printer's name, 1783- 
1789), XII, 8. 

31. An VI. Tome IV, 81-92. 

32. For further comments on the 
moral significance of Poor Rich- 
ard: see the end of Chapter 12 
of the present work. 

33. There exists at the Bibliotheque 
Nationale and at the New York 
Public Library another edition 
of the almanac without the con- 
versation between Sancho Panca 
and Bonhomme Richard: Calen- 
drier de Philadelphie pour I'an- 
nee MDCCLXXVII, Londres 
[i.e. Paris] 1777. This is unques- 
tionably the original work of 
Dubourg, but he seems to have 
had nothing to do with any sub- 
sequent edition. 

34. Vol. Ill, 358. 

35. John Keats, October 14-31, 1818. 
Lionel Trilling, ed., The Se- 
lected Letters of John Keats 
(New York: Farrar, Straus, 1951), 
p. 160. 

36. Leigh Hunt, Autobiography (2 
vols.; New York: Harper & Bros., 
1850), I, 130. 


1. L'espion anglois (10 vols.; Lon- 
dres: John Adamson, 1777-1786), 
V, 2 ff. Volumes 1-4 were written 
by Mathieu Francois Pidauzat de 
Mairobert, 1777-1778. The vol- 
umes that concern Franklin (5- 
10) were written anonymously 
after Mairobert's death. They 
may have been published in Am- 
sterdam, the London reference 
being perhaps a blind. 

2. Simeon Prosper Hardy, "Mes loi- 
sirs ou Journal d'e"ve*nemens tels 
qu'ils proviennent a ma connois- 
sance." Bibliotheque Nationale, 
MSS Francais 6682, folio 308. 

3. Verner W. Crane, Benjamin 
Franklin and a Rising People 
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1954), 
pp. 166, 171. For the most thor- 
ough analysis of Franklin's po- 

litical opinions see: Gerald 
Stourzh, Benjamin Franklin and 
American Foreign Policy (Chi- 
cago: University of Chicago Press, 


4. (Euvres de Bernard Palissy, re- 
vues sur les exemplaires de la 
bibliotheque du roi, avec des 
notes; par M. Faujas de Saint 
Ford y et des Additions par M. 
Gobet (Paris, Ruault, 1777). 

5. L'espion anglois, VII, 242-243. 

6. tat$-Unis de I'Aratrique septen- 
trionale, compare's avec les ligues 
acheenne, suisse et hollandoise (2 
vols.; Geneve: Cuchet, 1787), II, 

7. Reprinted in Pennsylvania 
Packet, June 3, 1780; quoted 
from Frank Moore, Diary of the 

American Revolution (2 vols.; 
New York: Scribners, 1860), H, 


8. For a discussion of Franklin's 
part in Affaires de I'Angleterre 
et de I'AmMque see: Gilbert 
Chinard, "Adventures in a Li- 
brary," Newberry Library Bulle- 
tin, Second Series No. 8 (March, 
a 952), PP- 225-236. 

9. La Rochefoucauld, ed., Consti- 
tutions des Treize tats-Unis de 
I'Amerique . . . (Paris: Ph D. 
Pierres, 1783). 

10. Ministere des Affaires trangeres. 
Correspondance Politique. ttats- 
Unis, 23, f. 372 

11. John Lewis Soulavie, Historical 

NOTES 243 

and Political Memoirs of the 
Reign of Lewis XVI . . - (6 
vols.; London: G. & J. Robinson, 
1802), V, 160-179. 

12. 26 juin 1782. 

13. William Smith, Eulogium on 
Benjamin Franklin . . (Phila- 
delphia: B. F. Bache, 1792), Ap- 
pendix No. i. 

14. Smyth, ecL, Writing VIII, 597. 

15. Marz 1797. 

16. Vie de Benjamin Franklin (2 
vols.; Paris: Buisson, An VI), 


17. Jared Sparks, ed., Works of Ben- 
jamin Franklin (10 vols.; Bos- 
ton: HiUiard, Gray & Co., 1836- 
1840), n, 434-447- 


1. Smyth, ed., Writings, III, 124. 

2. Ibid., V, 47. 

3. Ibid., V, 53-54. 

4. Ibid., VII, 103. 

5. Ibid., VII, 289-290. 

6. Ibid., VII, 393-394- 

7. Ibid., IX, 667-669. 

8. Ibid., IX, 665. 

9. Ibid., X, 50. 

10. Pennsylvania Evening Herald. 
February 26, 1785. 

11. 21 aout 1791. 

12. Les Jar dins de Betz, Po&me, Ac- 
compagne de notes instructives 
. . . fait en 77*5 par M. Cerutti, 
et public en 1792 (Paris: De- 
senne, 1792), pp. 4-4 1 - T* 16 
note on American independence 
appeared first hi La Feuille VH- 
lageoise, 9 fdvrier 1792. 

13. Helen Maria Williams, Souvenirs 
de la Revolution frangaise (Paris: 
1827), pp. 12-13. 

14. 16 aout 1792. 

15. Bernard Fay, "Franklin et Mira- 
beau collaborateurs/' Revue de 
litterature comparte, VIII (1928), 

16. Smyth, ed., Writings, IX, 162. 

17. Morellet's letter is printed by 
Fay, loc. cit. 

18. Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 354. 

19. Ibid., DC, 270. 

20. Rene* des Genettes, Souvenirs de 
la fin du XVIII* siecle et du 
commencement du XIX 6 (2 vols,; 
Paris: Didot freres, 1835-1836), 

I, 117- 

21. Lettres de Mirabeau a Cham- 
fort . . . (Paris: chez le direc- 
teur de la Decade philosophiquc, 
An V), p. 29. 

22. Ibid., p. 43. 

23. Ibid., p. 56. 

24. Ibid., p. 87. 

25. (Euvres completes de Chamfort 
recueillies . . . par P. R. Auguis 
(5 vols.; Paris: Chaumerot jeune, 
1824-1825), V, 1825. 

26. (Euvres de Ckamfort (4 vols.; 
Paris: Imprimerie des Sciences et 
Arts, An III), I, xii. 

27. Vie de Benjamin Franklin (Paris: 
Buisson, An VI), n, 376. 

28. Journal de la Socie'tc de 1789, 
24 juillet 1790. After writing 
this chapter, I discovered that 
Durand Ecchevenia published 
Morellet's text in Bulletin de 



rinstitut FranQais de Washing- 
ton, n.s. Ill, 119-126. 

29. La Feuille Villageoise, 26 Janvier 

30. No. XVII, p. lix. 

31. Paris: Ruault, libraire, 1777, pp. 

32. Regnier trad., Recueil des loix 
constitutives des colonies an- 
gloises (Philadelphie, et se vend 
a Paris: . . . chez Cellot & Jom- 
bert, i77 8 )- 

33. La Rochefoucauld, ed., Consti- 
tutions des Treize ILtats-Unis de 
I'Amlrique . . . (Paris: Ph D. 
Pierres, 1783). The French edi- 
tions of the constitution of Penn- 
sylvania pose a number of prob- 
lems, including that of the iden- 
tity of the translator. The Recueil 
des loix constitutives is generally 
attributed to Regnier yet the 
translations of the Pennsylvania 
constitution in the three volumes 
mentioned above are identical. 
Regnier wrote to Franklin (Oc- 
tober 12, 1782) on the subject 
of a collection of laws of the 
United States he was making. 
He pointed out that he had 
presented his first volume to La 
Rochefoucauld, who had ap- 
proved the plan of publishing 
a second volume. He asked 
Franklin for permission to copy 
documents that he lacked and 
asked whether he might later 
submit the work for Franklin's 
criticism and advice. [Hays, 
Calendar, n, 502.] The first vol- 
ume, 1778, had been dedicated 
to Franklin in an address signed 
by Regnier. For the influence of 
these editions see: J. Paul Selsam 
and Joseph G. Rayback, "French 
Comment on the Pennsylvania 
Constitution of 1776," Pennsyl- 
vania Magazine of History and 
Biography, LXXVI (1952), pp. 
311-325. Gilbert Chinard gives a 
full discussion of the texts of 
Regnier and La Rochefoucauld 

in American Philosophical Soci- 
ety, Year Book 1943 (Philadel- 
phia, 1944), pp. 88-106. 

34. Journal de la Societe de ij8$, 
19 juin 1790. 

35. Stance du vendredi 7 octobre 
1791. Correspondance patri- 
otique, I (1791), 67. 

36. John Adams, Works (10 vols.; 
Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 
1850-1856), DC, 622-623. To Sam- 
uel Perley, June 19, 1809. 

37. The Life of Thomas Paine (Lon- 
don: John Maxwell, 1817), p. 

38. Philip S. Foner, ed., The Com- 
plete Writings of Thomas Paine 
(2 vols.; New York: Citadel Press, 
1945), II, 270. 

39. Ibid., II, 1006. 

40. Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 58. 

41. M. R. Eiselen, Franklin's Politi- 
cal Theories (Garden City, N. Y.: 
Doubleday, Doran 8c Co., 1928), 
pp. 57-58; J. Paul Selsam, The 
Pennsylvania Constitution of 
1776 (Philadelphia: University of 
Pennsylvania Press, 1926), pas- 
sim; Charles M. Anderson, The 
Colonial Period of American 
History (4 vols.; New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 1934-1938), 
HI, 320. 

42. Qu'est-ce que la constitution de 
$ Constitution de Massachu- 
sett (sic) (Paris: chez Migneret, 
An III), pp. 27-33- 

43. Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 35. 

44. Ibid., X, 68-69. 

45. Private Correspondence (London: 
H. Colburn, 1817), I, 68-69. 

46. 2 Janvier 1790. 

47. Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 72. 

48. Gazetteer and New Daily Ad- 
vertiser (London), July 5, 1790. 

49. Les contemporains de 1789 et 
1790* ou les opinions dtbattues 
pendant la premiere legislature 
. . . rldigi par M. de Luchet (3 
vols.; Paris: chez Lejay fils, 1790), 
H, 34-35- 




1. Illusions per dues f II Partie, Un 
grand homme de province & 

2. Histoire philosophique et poll- 
tique des etablissemens et du 
commerce des europeens dans les 
deux In des (6 vols.; Amsterdam: 
no printer's name, 1770), VI, 257- 
262. Three excellent scholarly 
works treat RaynaTs use of the 
Polly Baker story: Anatole 
Feugere, L'Abbe Raynal (Angou- 
leme: Imprimerie ouvriere, 1922); 
Johan Viktor Johansson, Etudes 
sur Denis Diderot (Goteborg, 
Paris; Champion, 1927); Gilbert 
Chinard, ed., Diderot. Supple- 
ment au Voyage de Bougainville 
(Paris: E. Droz, 1935). Johans- 
son's work is the most thorough 
study of the textual history of 
Polly Baker and the influence 
of RaynaTs version. 

3. Writings (20 vols.; Washington: 
Jefferson Memorial Association, 
1903-1904), XVIII, 170. 

4. Op. cit. (4 vols.; Paris: chez 
FrouU^, 1788), in, 23-24. 

5. See in particular Feugere, L'Abbe 
Raynal, p. 219. 

6. (Euvres completes de Voltaire 
(70 vols.; Imprimerie de la so- 
cie*te* littfedre typographique, 
1784-1789), XXXVII, 277-278. 

7. Smyth, ed., Writings, II, 465. 

8. Brissot de Warville, Mtmoires 
(4 vols.; Paris: Ladvocat, 1830- 
1832), HI, 83. 

9. Lettre II, Mai 1774. Correspon- 
dance Litteraire (6 vols.; Paris: 
Migneret imprimeur, 1801-1807), 
I, 18. 

10. Chinard, ed., Supplement au 
Voyage de Bougainville, pp. 155- 
159. The digression concerning 
Polly Baker does not appear in 
any of the editions of the Vo- 
yage published during Diderot's 
lifetime, but in a manuscript 
of the work discovered in the 
Leningrad public library. 

11. Johansson, ittudes, p. 189. 

12. 17 juin, 33, 40. The heroine is 
termed Mary Baker in a note 
concerning credulity by the trans- 
lator [Joel Barlow?] of Brissot's 
Travels: "Accounts like this put 
one in mind of Dr. Franklin's 

~ romance of Mary Baker, so re- 
ligiously believed and copied by 
the Abbe" Raynal, in his History 
of the Two Indies." J. P. Brissot 
de Warville, New Travels in the 
United States of America (Dub- 
lin: W. Corbet, 1792), p. 330. 

13. Op. cit., VIH, 363-368. 

14. Op. cit., p. 158. 

15. Egide Louis Edme" Joseph de 
Lespinasse, Chevalier de Lan- 
geac, Anecdotes anglaises et 
americaines ... (2 vols.; Paris: 
Delaunay, 1813), H, 130-139- 

16. Johansson, op. cit., p. 181. 

17. Recherches historiques . . . sur 
les tats-Unis, HI, 25. 


1. This and other details of Du- 
bourg's early life are documented 
in A. O. Aldridge, "Jacques 
Barbeu-Dubourg," loc. cit. 3- 

2. The edition of the Bibliothfcque 
Nationale [T 7 .i5.8o] has neither 
date nor place, but can be dated 

1779 because of an account of 
it in Memoires secrets, 13 vrier 

Vicomte de Barjac, ou 
pour seruir a fhistoirc de 
siccle (London: no printer's 
name, 1784), pp. 7 8 * 



4. Maurice Cousin, O de Cour- 
champs, ed., Souvenirs de la 
marquise de Crequy (10 vols.; 
Paris: Gamier fr&res, 1903). Ac- 
cording to Sainte-Beuve, ". . . on 
arriverait, rien qu'avec les Let- 
tres qu'on public et dont j'ai 
les originaux sous les yeux, a 
tre assur^ que les pr&endus 
M&noires ne sont, a aucun 
degrd, de la Marquise de Cr<qui 
elle-mme." Lettres inedites de 
la marquise de Crequi (Paris: 
L. Potier, 1856), p. xiv. 

5. Op. cit., V, 179. 

6. Emmanuel Due de Croy, "M- 
moires du Due de Croy sur les 
Cours de Louis XV et de Louis 
XVI (1727-1784)," Nouvelle 
Revue Retrospective, V (1896), 
339. See also an expanded but 
less colorful account in Groucy 
& Cottin, eds., Journal inedit du 
due de Croy, 1718-1784 (4 vols.; 
Paris: E. Flammarion, 1907), III, 

7. Winslow C. Watson, ed., Men 
and Times of the Revolution: 
or Memoirs of Elkanah Watson 
(ad ed.; New York: Dana & Co., 
1857), p. 103. 

8. Carl Van Doren, ed., The Letters 
of Benjamin Franklin and Jane 
Mecom (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1950), pp. 336- 

9. All of the following details con- 
cerning Crfcvecoeur are taken 
from the excellent study by Percy 
G. Adams, "Cr&vecoeur and 
Franklin," Pennsylvania History, 
XIV (1947), 2-8. 

10. Manuscrit 596- Bibliothfcque 
Municipale de Verdun. 

11. Versions of this anecdote ap- 
peared in a number of news- 
papers after Franklin's death and 
in John F. Watson's Annals of 
Philadelphia, 1844, but its ap- 
parent source appeared only re- 
cently: "An Article Found 
Among the Papers of Roberts 
Vaux," Pennsylvania Magazine, 
XLVIH (1924), 383- 

12. Portrait du Comte de Vergennes 

(n.p. f 1778), P- 58- 

13. Histoire d'un pou francois 
(Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1779), 
p. 26. 

14. Journal inedit, III, 295. 

15. Quoted in Jules BeUendy, /.-S. 
Duplessis, peintre du rot. 1725- 
1802 (Chartres: Imprimerie Du- 
rand, 1913)* P- 86 - 

16. Op. cit., pp. 61-62. 

17. Mercure de France. Supplement 
au No. i (Janvier 1793). 

18. Jones*s Fragment of Polybius is 
printed in full in Sparks, ed., 
Works of Benjamin Franklin, 

Vin, 543-547- 

19. (Paris: Ph D. Pierres, 1783), pp. 


1. Schelle, ed., CEuvres de Turgot, 
V, 647. 

2. Georges Giacometti, Le statuatre 
Jean-Antoine Houdon et son 
4poque (3 vols.; Paris: Joune & 
Cie., 1918-1919), in, 239, 336. 

3. Charles Henry Hart, "An Un- 
published Life Portrait of Frank- 
lin," McClure's Magazine, VIII 
(March, 1897), 453. 

4. Baron Roger Portalis, Honorj 

Fragonard, sa vie et son oeuvre 
(Paris: J. Rothschild, 1889), pp. 
141-142. The engraving is de- 
scribed and praised in Journal 
de Paris, 15 novembre 1778. 

5- P- i- 

6. (Ewres choisies de Servan (5 
vols.; Paris: chez les ^diteurs, 
1825), III, 116. 

7. At his revolutionary trial, 7 
thermidor An IL George Hilt. 


"Des Freiherrn von Trenck letzte 
Stunden," Die Gartenlaube, 1863 
(no volume number), pp. 8-11. 

8. Schelle, ed., (Euures, V, 494. 

9. Adams, Works, IX, 625. 

0. Ibid., I, 662. 

1. O'Connor et Arago, eds., (Euvres, 
V, 162. 

2. Smyth, ed., Writings, VIII, 93. 

3. Ibid., VIII, 215. 

4. Ernest Ghoullier, Voltaire et 
Franklin a I'Acaddmie des Sci- 
ences (Troyes, 1898), p. 6. 

15. M^moires de Condorcet sur le 
rkgne de Louis XVI et la r Evo- 
lution. Extraits de sa correspon- 
dance et de celles de ses amis. 
Tomes VII et VIII des (Euvres 
choisies de M. le Marquis de la 
Rochefoucauld-Liancourt (2 vols.; 
Paris: imprimerie de Morris, 
1862), I, i55-!57- 

16. Vol. II, p. 365. 

17. Vol. IV, p. 20. 

18. Tourneux, ed., XII, 85. 

19. Charles Sumner, "Monograph 
from an Old Note-Book," At- 
lantic Monthly, XII (1863), 648- 
662. Reprinted in Works of 
Charles Sumner (15 vols.; Bos- 
ton: Lee & Shepard, 1873-1883), 
VIII, 1-38. 

20. Pp. 134-136. This review can 
be identified as Chamfort's be- 
cause it is reprinted in his 
(Euvres completes, III, 316-324. 

21. Horace W. Smith, Life and Cor- 
respondence of the Rev. William 
Smith, D.D. (2 vols.; Philadel- 
phia: Ferguson Bros., 1880), II, 


22. Winthrop Sargent, ed., The 
Loyal Verses of Joseph Stansbury 
and Doctor Jonathan Odell (Al- 
bany: no printer's name, 1860), 
p. 112: "The Inscription on 
Franklin's Stove was undoubtedly 
written by Dr. Odell. Independ- 
ently of the assertion of his fam- 
ily, and the fact of a manuscript 
version in his handwriting, dated 


1776, being now before me, 
abundant evidence of his author- 
ship will be found in contempo- 
raneous authorities. It is so 
stated in the Gentleman's Maga- 
zine for April, 1777; in Towne's 
Evening Post; Philadelphia, Nov. 
29th, 1777; in Boucher's View 
of the American Revolution 
(London, 1797), p. 449; and in 
Rev. W. Smith's Works (Phila- 
delphia, 1803)." 

23. Masson to Franklin, June 22, 
1778. Hays, ed., Calendar, I, 

24. Du Pont de Nemours, ecL, CEicures 
de M r - Turgot (9 vols.; Paris: 
Impr. de A. Belin, 1808-1811), 
IX, 140. 

25. Smyth, ecL, Writings, VIH, 215- 
216. Nogaret's translation was 
immediately printed below a 
portrait of Franklin engraved 
after a painting by L. C. Car- 
montelle. It is described in Jour- 
nal de Paris, 31 mars 1781. 

26. Morellet, Memoires, I, 288. 

27. Voyage d'Amerique (a Londres 
et se trouve a Paris, chez Pichard, 
1786), p. 22. 

28. (A Paris: Impr. L. Potier de 
Lille, 1790.) 

29. Public Advertiser, February 16, 
1774. Verner W. Crane, Benja- 
min Franklin's Letters to the 
Press (Chapel Hill: University 
of North Carolina Press, 1950), 
p. xxix. 

30. Coder to Franklin, June i6 

1777. Hays, ed., Calendar, I, 


31. Tourneux, ed., op. dt. 3 XII, 3. 

32. (5 vols.; Paris: Migneret, 1801- 
1807), n, 70. It is to be noted 
that the first line in this quatrain 
and in Turgot's French verses 
are identical. Madame du Def- 
fand sent a copy of Target's 
quatrain (unaware of its author- 
ship) to Horace Walpole, March 
i, 1777. W. S. Lewis and W. H. 



Smith, eds., Horace Walpole's 
Correspondence with Madame 
Du Deffand (6 vols.; New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 
!9%9)> IV' 4*3- Madame Du 
Deffand cited the epigram in 
a letter to the Duchesse de 
Choiseul, April 22, 1778, and 
quoted d'Alembert's verses, May 
2, 1778. Saint-Aulaire, ed., Cor- 
respondance complete de Mme. 
du Deffand (3 vols.; Paris: 
Michel Levy freres, 1866-1877), 

in, 3is-3 i 4- 

33. Nicholas Hans, "Franklin, Jeffer- 
son, and the English Radicals 
at the End of the Eighteenth 
Century," Proceedings of the 
American Philosophical Society, 
XCVIH (1954)* 4*3- 

34. L. S. Livingston, Franklin and 
His Press at Passy (New York, 
1914), p. 196. 

35. Nouveaux opuscules de M. 
Feutry (Dijon, et se trouve a 
Paris, 1779), p. 59. There are 
other verses on Franklin on 
pp. 18-20 and 94. 

36. Portrait du Comte de Vergennes 
(n.p., 1788), pp. 60-61. 

37. Livingston, op. cit., p. 190. 

38. Cubieres-Palmezeaux (Michel de 
Cubieres), ed., Poesies philoso- 
phiques et descriptives des 
auteurs qui se sont distingues 
dans le dix-huitieme siecle (3 
vols.; Paris: no printer's name, 
1792), III, 79-87. 

39. Le tribut de la societe nationale 
des neuf soeurs, ou recueil de 
memoires sur les sciences, belles 
lettres et arts, et d'autres pieces 
lues dans les stances de cette 
societ^ (Paris: 1791), pp. 51-57 
[Z6 1748]. The separate printing 
has no title page [Ye 27763]. 

40. Recueil d'apologues et de faits 
historiques, mis en vers, et 
relatifs aux revolutions francaise, 
americaine, etc. (Paris: Laran, 
An V), pp. 22-24. For informa- 
tion on this author see: Gilbert 
Chinard, ed., Vashington ou la 
libert^ du nouveau monde 
(Princeton: Princeton University 
Press, 1941). 

41. Ibid., pp. 57-6- 

42. Caen: L. J. Poisson, 1787. 


1. See Chapter 7. 

2. My treatment of this play and the 
two following is based on K. N. 
McKee, "The Popularity of the 
'American* on the French Stage 
During the Revolution," Proceed- 
ings of the American Philosophi- 
cal Society, LXXXIII (1940), 479- 


3. Bernard Fa^ also treats this work: 
L'esprit revolutionnaire en France 
et aux Etats Unis a la fin du 

XVIII* siecle (Paris: Edouard 
Champion, 1925), pp. 196-197. 

4. I. Bernard Cohen, "A note con- 
cerning Diderot and Franklin," 
Isis, XLVI (i955) 269-270. 

5. Roland Mortier, Diderot en Alle- 
magne (Paris: Presses Universi- 
taires, 1954), p. 217. 

6. La mort de Robespierre, Trageaie 
en trois actes et en vers (Paris: 
chez Monoroy, Libraire, An IX), 
pp. 215-221. 



1. There have been countless stud- 
ies of Franklin's Memoirs. The 
most complete printing of texts 
is Max Farrand, ed., Memoirs. 
Parallel text edition (Berkeley: 
University of California Press, 
1949). Best discussion is Jack C. 
Barnes, Franklin and His Mem- 
oirs, unpublished doctoral dis- 
sertation, University of Mary- 
land, 1954. 

2. "Anecdotes sur Franklin/* 15 
juillet 1790. 

3. Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis, 
"Notice sur Benjamin Franklin," 
(Euvres completes (5 vols.; Paris: 
Bossange frfcres, 1825-1825), V, 


4. Bibliotheque Municipale. Mantes. 

5. Memoires de la vie privfe de 
Benjamin Franklin, Merits par 
lui-meme et adressSs a son fils 
(Paris: Buisson, 1791)- 

6. This letter was subsequently 
printed in Mercure de France, 
12 mars 1791 (where it is dated 
23 fevrier) and in Journal de 
Paris, 24 mars. 

7. Manuscript letter. Morgan Li- 
brary. New York City. Photostat 
in Library of Congress. 

8. Manuscript Division. Library of 

9. O'Connor and Arago, eds., 
(Euvres . . . de Condorcet, in, 

10. Papers of abbe* de la Roche. Bi- 
bliotheque de Tlnstitut de 

11. This translation is apparently 
not entirely the work of Le 
Veillard since W. T. Franklin 
in a letter to Le Veillard (Febru- 
ary 28, 1792) refers to the lat- 
ter's remark that the translation 
is being done by a M. Feufllet, 

who, however, could not com- 
plete it. [Manuscript letter. Mor- 
gan Library. New York City, 
Photostat in Library of Con- 
gress.] Somewhat later Benjamin 
Vaughan knew of the existence 
of Le Veillard's translation. 
When interrogated by French 
officials on landing in France, 
June 2, 1794* he reported: 
". . . Le Docteur Franklin m'a 
envoye* une Copie en manuscrit 
de sa vie pour y ajouter mes r- 
flexions avec le Docteur Price, 
avant que d'etre imprime'e; et 
dans sa vie qu'a traduit le M. Le 
Veillard on trouvera une Longue 
Lettre de ma part, pour lui 
decider d^crire sa vie." Ministere 
des Affaires fctrangferes. Angle- 
terre, 588, ff. 171-176. 

12. 30 pluvi6se, An VE (18 fevrier 
1798), pp. MS-SSS- 

13. J. Castera, trad., Vie de Benja- 
min Franklin (Paris: Buisson, An 
VI), I, i-ii. 

14. Gilbert Chinard, "Les amities 
amexicaines de Mme. d'Houdetot 
d'apres sa correspondance in6dite 
avec Benjamin Franklin et 
Thomas Jefferson," Bibliotheque 
de la Revue de litterature com- 
paree, VHI (1924), 5~ 10 - 

15. Bibliotheque de 1'Institut de 

16. Mercure de France, 25 juin 1791; 
Chamfort, (Euvres completes, III, 


17. 5 aout 1791- 

18. 21 aout 1791. 

19. "Hommage rendu par le voeu 
unanime de la soci^t^ de 1789 
a Benjamin Franklin, objet de 
1'admiration et des regrets des 
smiis de la libert^," Journal dc 
la Socitte de 1789, 19 TP&- X 79- 




. Richard E. Amacher, ed., Frank- 
lin's Wit and Folly. The Baga- 
telles (New Brunswick: Rutgers 
University Press, 1953), p. 19. 
See also L. S. Livingston, Frank- 
lin and His Press at Passy (New 
York: Grolier Club, 1914), p. 17. 
i. Memoirs of the Life and Writ- 
ings of Benjamin Franklin (3 
vols.; London: H. Colburn, 1817- 
1818), in, 307. 

3. W. C. Bruce, Benjamin Frank- 
lin, Self-Revealed (sd ed.; 2 vols.; 
New York: G. P. Putnam, 1923), 

I, 476. 

4. Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis, 
CEuures completes (5 vols.; Paris: 
Bossange freres, 1823-1825), V, 


5. Memoir es inedits de I'abbd 
Morellet (2 i me ed.; 2 vols.; Paris: 
Ladvocat, 1822), I, 379-3 8 - 

6. Gilbert Chinard, "Abbe" Lefebvre 
de la Roche's Recollections of 
Benjamin Franklin," Proceedings 
of the American Philosophical 
Society, XCIV (1950), 215-216. 

7. Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 442. 
Sparks quite properly printed 
this letter as a bagatelle, Works 
of Benjamin Franklin (10 vols.; 
Boston: Hilliard, Gray & Co., 
1836-1840), II, 202-203. 

8. Poupon was a lap dog. Septem- 
ber 19, 1779. Paul McPharlin, 
ed., Satires and Bagatelles (De- 
troit: Fine Book Circle, 1937), 
p. 106. 

9. June 24 [1780?], Schelle, ed., 
CEuvres de Turgot, V, 628. 

10. Smyth, ed., Writings, VII, 204- 

11. Maurice Tourneux, ed,, op. cit., 
XII, 385-386. 

12. Op. Clt., I, 30O-3O2. 

13. L. S. Livingston, Benjamin 
Franklin's Letters to Madame 
Helvetius and Madame La Frete 

(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. 
Press, 1924); McPharlin, op. cit., 
p. 109; Amacher, op. cit., p. 148. 

14. C. F. Adams, ed., Letters of Mrs. 
Adams (2d ed.; 2 vols.; Boston: 
C. C. Little & J. Brown, 1840), 

II, 55-5 6 - 

15. This letter and others by Mme. 
Brillon, although written in 
French, are printed by Smyth in 
English translation: Writings, X, 
409. Bernard Fay discovered an 
interesting anecdote about Frank- 
lin and Mme. Brillon in the 
American Museum, August, 1791. 
One day she was "sitting on his 
knee and combing his grey locks. 
*Why,' asked he, 'have you that 
have so often invited me to dine 
and sup with you never re- 
quested me to stay and sleep?* 
She smiled, perhaps she blushed, 
and answered that she would be 
happy to be favored with his 
company that very night. For- 
tunately it was summer time. 
'Hum, hum/ said the old gentle- 
man a little embarrassed, not ex- 
pecting so warm a reply, but 
taking out a memorandum book. 
Til make a minute of the in- 
vitation, and, when the nights 
are longer, will have the pleas- 
ure of waiting on you.' " "His 
Excellency Mr. Franklin. The 
Last Loves of the First Ameri- 
can," The Forum, LXXIX (1928), 


16. To William Carmichael, June 
17, 1780. Writings, VIII, 100. 

17. November 18, 1780. Ibid., X, 416. 

18. Papers of abbe" de la Roche. 
Bibliothfeque de Tlnstitut de 

19. Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 436. 

20. Ibid., X, 208. 

21. Ibid., X, 100. 

22. "The Vanity and Ambition of 


the Human Mind." This essay 
appeared originally in The Free- 
thinker, April 24, 1719. 

23. Papers of abbe* de la Roche. 
Bibliotheque de I'lnstitut de 

24. Smyth, ed., Writings, X, 436. 

25. Amacher, op. cit., pp. 158-159. 

26. Smyth, ed., Writings, VIII, 154- 

27. Ibid., X, 427. 

28. Ibid., VII, 414-416. 

29. (Euvres completes, V, 222-223. 

30. Chinard, "Recollections," Pro- 
ceedings of the American Philo- 
sophical Society, XCIV (1950), 

31. Smyth, ed., Writings, VIII, 162- 

32. A. A. Barbier, ed., Correspon- 
dance inedite de Vabbe Ferdi- 
nand Galiani, Conseilleur du 
roi de Naples ... (2 vols.; 
Paris: Treuttel et Wurtz, 1818), 
II, 512. 

33. Ibid., I, liv. 

34. Amacher, op. cit., pp. 06-69. 

35. A. O. Aldridge, "Franklin's Let- 
ter on Indians and Germans," 
Proceedings of the American 
Philosophical Society, XCIV 

(195)' SQ^SQB- w fi 

36. Smyth, ed., Writings, IX, 176- 


37. Hays, ed., Calendar of the Papers 
of Benjamin Franklin, I, 496. 

a8 Chinard, "Recollections," loc. 
cit., p. 221. All critics of Frank- 
lin's bagatelles agree that the 
Information and the Remarks 
should not be included in the 
group, but persist in including 
them because of the mechanical 
circumstance that Franklin 
printed them himself and sent 
copies to Mme. Brillon. In his 
accompanying letter to Mme. 
Brillon, however, he clearly in- 
dicated that he considered the 
two propaganda tracts to belong 
to a different category. 

39. Papers of abbe* de la Roche. 
Bibliotheque de Tlnstitut de 

40. 17 fdvrier. 

41. Amacher, op. cit., p. 153. 

42. Ibid., p. 155. 

43. 23 juin 1791. Even before Ce- 
rutti's article, the abbe* Fauchet 
had paraphrased the parable in 
his eulogy of Franklin, July 21, 
1790. See Chapter 11. 

44. Ministere des Affaires trangeres. 
Correspondance Politique* tats- 
Unis, Vol. 23, f. 386. 

45. Bibliotheque Municipale Nantes. 

46. Smyth, ed., Writings, V, 555-555- 
On another occasion Franklin at- 
tended a dinner at which bread 
made with potatoes the discov- 
ery of Parmentier was a feature. 
C. Hippeau, Le Gouvernement 
de Normandie an XVII* et 
XVIII 9 Siecle . . . Deuxieme Par- 
tie (9 vols.; Caen: G. de Laporte, 
1863-1870), I, 127. 

47. Smyth, ed., Writings, JX, 183-189. 

48. Benjamin Franklin (New York: 
Viking Press, 1938), p. 710. 

49. J. Caste"ra, ed., Vie de Benjamin 
Franklin (2 vols.; Paris: Buisson, 
An VI). 

50. C. Couderc, "Economies propo- 
s<es par B. Franklin et Mertier 
de Saint-Ixger," Bulletin de la 
Societe de I'histoire de Paris, 43* 
annee 1916, pp. 93-101. 

51. There exists in the Boston Pub- 
lic Library a newspaper dipping 
of "La main gauche, petition 
adresse"e a tous ceux qui ont des 
enfants a Clever." This clipping 
has neither name nor date, but 
it states that the petition is ex- 
tracted from a "petit almanach 
de 1787 (Etrennes a 1'humanitey' 
Unfortunately this edition does 
not exist at the Bibliotheque Na- 
tionale. It is not even mentioned 
by J. Grand Carteret in Les al- 
manacs frangais. 

52. 10 pluviose An VL 


53. Letter of M. Grouvelle, Journal 
de la Societt de 178$, 24 juillet 

54. Sparks, ed., Works, X, 314. 

55. Smyth, ecL, Writings, VIII, 162. 

56. A full account of this work is 
available in A. O. Aldridge, 
"Jacques Barbeu Dubourg, A 
French Disciple of Benjamin 
Franklin," Proceedings of the 
American Philosophical Society, 

xcv (1951), 331-392. 

57. The great historian of the 

French Revolution, A. Aulard, 
has presented nearly everything 
that is known about Gargaz. "Le 
forcat Gargaz, Franklin et la So- 
cie*t des Nations," La Revue de 
Paris. Trentieme Anne. Tome 
Cinquieme (septembre, 1923), 
pp. 44-55. There is a second edi- 
tion of the Contrat social printed 
in reformed spelling. Paris. 
Archives Nationales. AD XVII 


1. Gilbert Chinard, "La Roche's 
Recollections," Proceedings of 
the American Philosophical So- 
ciety, XCIV (1950), 218. 

2. Ibid., 219. 

3. Jefferson, Writing, XVIII, 171- 
172. The history of the doctrine 
is told by Gilbert Chinard in 
"Eighteenth Century Theories 
on America as a Human Habi- 
tat," Proceedings of the Amer- 
ican Philosophical Society, XCI 
(1947), 27-57. 

4. Tourneux, ed., XII, 133. Frank- 
lin's taciturnity was frequently 
observed. The abb Morellet re- 
marked, for example, that he 
spoke in few words and at long 
intervals that no one practiced 
more faithfully the maxim of La 
Fontaine, "Le sage est menager 
du temps et des paroles." Me- 
moires, I, 204. 

5. August, 1783, Ibid., XIII, 349. 
Another version is given in Me- 
moires secrets, 24 septembre 1783. 

6. Ducarne de Blaugy to Franklin, 
October 3, 1783. Hays, ed., Cal- 
endar, IV, 468. 

7. Memoires secrets, 5 de'cembre 

8. "Anecdotes sur Franklin," 15 
juillet 1790. 

9. "Notice sur Benjamin Franklin," 
CEuvres computes, V, 219-274. 

10. Melanges de litter ature (4 vols.; 
Paris: V^e Lepetit, 1818), IV, 95. 

11. Vie de M. Turgot, in O'Connor 
& Arago, eds., CEuvres de Con- 
dorcet, V, 70. 

12. Moniteur, 15 juillet 1790. 

13. Smyth, ed., Writings, I, 386. 

14. CEuvres, V, 267. 

15. CEuvres completes de Chamfort, 

in, 218. 

16. Cabanis, CEuvres, V, 249. 

17. Moniteur, 15 juillet 1790. 

18. Lettres philosophiques . . . sur 
divers sujets de morale et de lit- 
Urature (Paris: F. Louis, 1826), 
pp. 132-136. 

19. Carl Van Doren, ed., The Letters 
of Benjamin Franklin and Jane 
Mecom (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1950), p. 315. 
See also pp. 317, 319. The story 
appeared also in William Cook, 
Memoirs of Samuel Foote (3 
vols.; London: R. Philips, 1805), 
in, 370. 

20. Works, III, 158-159. 

21. 4 fdvrier 1777. 

22. 25 fdvrier 1778. 

23. 17 juillet 1778. 

24. 26 mai 1779. The most com- 
plete record of Franklin's Ma- 
sonic activities in France is found 
in Louis Amiable, Une loge ma- 
fonnique d'avant ijSf) [Les Neuf 
Soeurs] (Paris: F. Alcan, 1897). 

The most important contempo- 
rary document in print is M^- 
moire pour la loge des neuf-soeurs. 
This work of 55 pageswithout 
date or place was apparently the 
joint work of "Court de Gebelin, 
Secretaire de la Loge des Neuf- 
Soeurs" and "La Dixmerie, Ora- 
teur, Depute* & Redacteur de ce 
M&noire." Amiable cites it from 
the Bibliotheque Nationale: H 
5589.4. It is to be found also in 
the Archives Nationales: AD 
XVII 26. Franklin is depicted as 
filling the void created by the 
death of Voltaire: "Un jour de 
tempte est, pour rordinaire, 
suivi d'un jour serein. Des noms 
fameux sont venus se joindre 
au grand nom de Voltaire, Be 
enricher le Catalogue des Neuf- 
Soeurs. Nous vimes bient6t ac- 
courir au milieu de nous cet 
homme celebre [Franklin] ami 
du grand Homme que nous re- 
grettons, ce Philosophe que le 
Monde ancien envia long-terns au 
Monde nouveau; qui scut dcon- 
certer a la fois les eflxoyans mys- 
tics de la Nature fc de la poli- 
tique: utile a 1'Univers entier 
par ses travaux, Protecteur & 
Lgislateur de sa Patrie par son 
courage & ses lumi&res," p. 6. 
We are told also that the Feast of 
Saint John was celebrated by the 
lodge in 1778 at Franklin's home 
in Passy. The MJmoires secrets, 
17 juillet 1778, reports that he 
was present, but does not indi- 
cate that the festivities were held 
at his home. See also: David J. 
Hill, "A Missing Chapter of 
Franco-American History," Amer- 
ican Historical Review, XXI 
(1916), 709-719. This is a valu- 
able treatment of the influence 
of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters 
on the French Revolution-al- 
though the influence is greatly 
exaggerated. The most complete 

NOTES 255 

record of Franklin's Masonic ac- 
tivities in both France and Amer- 
ica appears as a communication 
"Benjamin Franklin" by H. T. 
C. De Lafontaine, with addenda, 
in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, 
XLI (1929), 3-40. A discussion 
based on manuscripts in the 
American Philosophical Society 
is given by Nicholas Hans in 
"Unesco of the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury, La Loge des Neuf Soeuxs 
and Its Venerable Master, Ben- 
jamin Franklin," Proceedings of 
the American Philosophical So- 
ciety, XCVH (1953). 51 3-5 2 4- 

25. 10 Janvier 1778. 

26. 11 mars 1783. 

27. 29 juin 1783. 

28. 29 septembre 1782. 

29. Smyth, ecL, Writings, VIII, 595- 

30. 17 avrH 1780. 

31. Hays, ed., Calendar, n, 363. 
Franquelin to Franklin. March 
22, 1781. 

32. 3 mai 1781. 

S3- Juty Z 7> 1J 7 81 - M - de Lescure, 
Correspondence secrete . . . sur 
Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette (z 
vols.; Paris: H. Plon, 1866), I, 


34. Cited in Frank Moore, Diary of 
the American Revolution (2 
vols.; New York: Scribner, 1860), 
H, 82. 

35. New York Journal, September 8, 
1777. Quoted in Frank Moore, 
op. cit., I, 389. 

36. Vincent Le Ray de Chaumont, 
"Souvenirs des Etats-Unis/* La 
Semaine des Families, I (1859), 


37. Jefferson, Writings, XVIH, 168- 


38. John Bowring, ed., Works of 
Jeremy Bentham (n vols.; Edin- 
burgh: Wm. Tait, 1843), X, 527. 

39. Loc* tit. 

40. New York Public Advertiser, 



May 11, 1810. Reprinted from 
the Connecticut Gazette. 

41. Op. cit*, p. 218. 

42. Foner, ed., Writings, I, 285. 

43. Pierre Jean Baptiste Nougaret, 
Anecdotes du regne de Louis 
XVI (6 vols.; no printer's name, 
1791), IV, 438. 

44. Papers of the abbe" de la Roche. 
Bibliotheque de I'lnstitut de 

45. CEuvres, V, 219. 

46. Ibid., IV, 253-254. 

47. Verner W. Crane, Franklin's 
Letters to the Press (Chapel Hill: 
University of North Carolina 
Press, 1950), p. 34. Sainte-Beuve 
is much too generous toward Ca- 
banis. Comparing him to Volney, 
he remarks, "Volney had none 
of the character of Cabanis, who 
corrected the dryness (scheresse) 
of his doctrines by the charm 
(onction) of his nature; Volney 
was rather one to exaggerate 
them. If he took from Franklin 
his morality based on utility, he 
did so without a smile." Causeries 
du lundi (15 vols.; Paris: Gamier 
frfcres, 1857-1872), VII, 415. 
There is not even the trace of a 
smile in the entire essay on 
Franklin by Cabanis. 

48. CEuvres, IV, 391. 

49. Subsequent references to Cabanis 
concern his "Notice sur Benja- 
min Franklin." 

50. Rapports du physique et du 
moral de I'homme, in CEuvres, 
III, 24. 

51. Smyth, ed., Writings, I, 342-343. 

52. Ibid., I, 352. 

53. Chinard, "Recollections," Pro- 
ceedings of the American Phil- 
osophical Society, XCIV, 218. 

54. J. Bennett Nolan, "A Franklin 
Anecdote," Pennsylvania Maga- 
zine of History, LXXV (1951), 

55. Smyth, ed., Writings, V, 158. 

56. Ibid., IX, 14. 

57. Le Moniteur, 23 juillet 1792. 

58. Jean Francois Bodin, Recherches 
historiques sur I'Anjou (seconde 
Edition, 2 vols.; Angers: Cosmier 
et Lachese, 1847), II, 568. 

59. A View (Dublin: P. Byrne, 1782), 
p. 269. 

60. Histoire (2 vols.; Paris: chez 1'au- 
teur, 1784), I, 220-224. 

61. No place of publication. Pp. 183- 

62. This essay was inserted in 1788 
in Mazzei's Recherches histo- 
riques. O'Connor & Arago, eds., 
(Euvres de Condorcet, VIII, 29. 

63. P. 270. 


1. Discours du comte de Mirabeau 
dans la stance de n juin (Paris: 
Baudoin, 1790). The political 
implications of the eulogies of 
Franklin are discussed by Gilbert 
Chinard in "The Apotheosis of 
Benjamin Franklin/' Proceedings 
of the American Philosophical 
Society, XCIX (1955), 44^473- 

2. Cabanis, CEuvres, V, 262. Me- 
moires biographiques, litttraires 
et politiques de Mirabeau, VHI, 7. 

3. Patriote francois. 12 juin 1790. 

4. Michelet, Histoire de la Revolu- 
tion Francaise, ed* Gerard Wal- 

ter (2 vols.; Angers: Bibliotheque 
de la Pteiade, 1952), I, 482. 

5. Patriote francois. 12 juin 1790. 

6. (Euvres de Af. /. Chfriier (8 
vols.; Paris: Guillaume, 1823- 
1827), m 3* 1- 

7. Recherches physiques sur l*elec- 
tricitd (Paris: Nyon, 1782), pp. 
404 flF. 

8. Michelet, op. cit., I, 526. 

9. No. XIV (1790), pp. 6-16. 

10. Journal de la Soci&te de ij8$, 
19 juin 1790. 

11. Manuscrits. Biblioth&que de 

12. Le tribut de la sodetd nationals 
des neuf-soeurs (Paris, 1791), pp. 

13. Eloge civique de Benjamin 
Franklin (Paris: J. R. Lottin, 


14. Journal general de France, 23 
juillet 1790. 

15. CEuvres de M. Franklin, I, i. 

16. The bibliographical history of 
this epitaph is treated by L. H. 
Butterfield ["B. Franklin's Epi- 
taph," New Colophon, 1950, pp. 
9-39], who states that the "text be- 
lieved to be the first French 
translation of the Epitaph, was 
appended to the Mlmoires de la 
Vie Privee de Benjamin Franklin 
issued over the imprint of Buis- 
son, Libraire, Paris, in 1791." In 
my research I have found several 
other translations, including one 
as early as 1777- 

17. John Adams, "Diary," Works, 
III, 220. 

18. La science du bonhomme Ri- 
chard . . . prlc&dee d'un abregt 
de la vie de Franklin (Paris: Im- 
primerie des Sciences et Arts, An 
II), p. x. 

19. "De La Roche's Recollections/* 
Proceedings of the American 
Philosophical Society, XCIV, 217- 

20. No. 157 (1790), pp. 1-8. 

21. 8 octobre 1790. 

22. 24-31 juillet 1790. 

23. 23 juillet 1790. 

24. O'Connor & Arago, eds., (Euvres 
de Condorcet, III, 37*-4*3* 

25. Manuscripts Division. Library of 

26. Quoted by Lewis J. Carey, 
Franklin's Economic Views (Gar- 
den City: Doubleday, Doran, 
1928), p. 163. 

27. Crane, Franklin's Letters to the 
Press, p. xxxvii. 

28. Ibid., p. xxxviii. 

29. 24 d^cembre 1791. 

30. "Eloge de Franklin," Revue Re- 

NOTES 255 

trospective, VH (1835), 375'44- 
31. Discours prononce le 10 aout 
ijgo, a la fSte celebree en I'kon- 
neur de Benjamin Franklin par 
la societe des Ouvriers Im- 
primeurs de Paris > par M. L. . . . 
apprenti imprimeur. For a de- 
scription of the celebration see 
Le Journal General de France, 
14 aout 1790. It inspired a dra- 
matic performance, L'imprimeur, 
ou la fete de Franklin, April 8, 

32. Appendix to the Discours pro- 
nonce le 10 aout. The provinces 
also paid honor to Franklin. In 
Meurthe, for example, it was 
proposed and adopted that all 
members of the national guard 
wear a brand of crpe on their 
arms for three days. Extrait du 
Registre du conseil general d'ad- 
ministration de la garde na- 
tional de Nancy, departement de 
la Meurthe. Seance du ij juin 

33. Ministere des Affaires Etrang&res. 
Correspondance Politique. Etats- 
Unis, 35, ffi. 88-89. 

34. The best account of Franklin's 
character by an English contem- 
porary is a sketch by Joseph 
Priestley in Monthly Magazine, 
February, 1803. Reprinted in 
Franklin, Complete Works (3 
vols.; London: J. Johnson, 1806), 
III, 547-552. The most entertain- 
ing account by an American is 
that of John Adams in his Diary, 
but it is fragmentary and preju- 
diced against Franklin. 

35. Eulogium on Benjamin Franklin, 
LLJ). . . . delivered March i, 
1791, in the German Lutheran 
Church of the City of Philadel- 
phia before the American Philo- 
sophical Society, and agreeably 
to their appointment, by William 
Smith, IXZX - . . The memory of 
the deceased was honored also f 
at the delivery of this eulo&um, 


with the presence of the presi- 
dent, senate and house of repre- 
sentatives of the United States of 
America. . . . Printed by Benja- 
min Franklin Bache. Philadel- 
phia, 2792. 

36. Ministere des Affaires Etrang&res. 
Correspondance Politique. Etats- 
Unis, 35, f. 232. 

37. It is not my province to discuss 
Franklin's reputation in Ger- 
many. I might point out for in- 
cidental interest, however, a dis- 
paraging summary of his whole 
career, containing adverse com- 
ments on his begetting an illegit- 

imate son and his complicity in 
the affair of the Hutchinson let- 
ters. He is called the embodi- 
ment of the materialistic spirit of 
the age. "Auf jeden Fall wird 
man sich jedoch huten nuissen, 
ihn dem, in antiker Grosse dah- 
stehenden, spiegelreinen Charak- 
ter Washingtons, des einzigen 
grossen Mannes, den Amerika 
bis jetzt hervorgebracht hat, auch 
nur von Feme an die Seite zu 
stellen." N. H. Julius, Nord- 
amerikas sittliche Zustande (Leip- 
zig: Brockhaus, 1839), I, 98-99. 


Achenwall, Gottfried, 30, 36 

Adams, Abigail: describes Mme. Hel- 
vetius, 164-165 

Adams, John, 192, 237; comments on 
Franklin's religion, 220; describes 
Franklin's meeting with Voltaire, 
11; discusses Franklin's unicameral- 
ism, 87-88; on Turgot's epigram, 
126; presented as poetic character, 

Adams, Samuel, 89 

Alembert, Jean Le Rond d f , 14, 107, 
170; his verses on Franklin, 128-129, 
248; translates Turgot's epigram, 
127-129, 136 

Archenholz, Johann Wilhelm von, 73 

Aude, Joseph, 142-143 

Aulard, F. V. Alphonse, 185 

Bache, Benjamin Franklin: copied 
Franklin's Memoirs, 151 

Bache, Sarah, 80-81 

Bacon, Francis, 41, 47, 207 

Balzac, Honor de, 95 

Barb^-Marbois, Francois, marquis de, 

Bastiat, Frdric, 49 

Baynes, John, 23-24 

Beaumarchais, Caron de, 62, 115; dedi- 
cates work to Franklin, 123-124 

Bentham, Jeremy, 197 

Bigelow, John, 155 

Billardon de Sauvigny, Louis Edm: 
paraphrases Turgot's epigram, 132; 
poems on Franklin, 139 

Bonneville, Nicolas de, 219 

Bourbon, L. Marie Therese, duchesse 
de, 197 

Bourdic, Marie Anne, baronne de, 137 

Bourdon, Louis Gabriel, abbe": para- 
phrases Turgot's epigram, 133 

Brillon, Mme. dTHardancourt, 108, 
161, 182, 250; bagatelles addressed 
to, 165-170 

Brissot de Warville, Jacques Pierre, 

37* 45* 9 1 * 102 1 73 21 4 
Brizard, Gabriel, abb<: his allegory 
on American Revolution, 119-123, 

Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, comte 

de, 21, 69 
Buisson: prints edition of Franklin's 

Memoirs ; 152-156 
Burke, Aedanus, 80-86 

Cabanis, Pierre Jean Georges, 14, 161, 
162, 220, 254; his notice concerning 
Franklin, 150, 169, 189, 190, 199, 
203-210, 238 

Cadet de Vaux, Antoine A. F., 7; 
publishes Franklin's essays, 175-177 

Caracciolo, Ferdinand, 170 

Castera, Jean Henri, 45, 75, 84, 154, 
155, 170, 174, 179 

Cato: Franklin compared to, 231 

Cerutti, Joseph Antoine, 14, 50-51, 78- 
79, 80, 173-175 

Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de, so6 

Chamfort, S^bastien Roch, 190; re- 
views Franklin's Memoirs, 129-131* 
156-157, 238; translates Franklin's 
remarks on Society of Cincinnati, 

Chaumont, Donatien le Ray de, 62, 

Chaumont, Vincent le Ray de: anec- 
dotes on Franklin, 196-198, 199 

Cheetham, James, 88 

Chenier, Marie Joseph de, 215 

Chinard, Gilbert, 103, 222 

Cloots, Anacharsis, 100 

Cochin, Charles Nicolas, 134 

Collins, Anthony, 205 

Collinson, Peter, 21, 36, 74, 171 

Condorcet, Marie Jean A. N. Caritat, 
marquis de, 14, 17, 99 12 7 l8 9> 2l8 
219, 235; describes Franklin's meet- 
ings with Voltaire, 9-11, 12; his eu- 
logy of Franklin, 49-50, 153, 223-232; 
bis unicameralism, 87-88; portrays 
Franklin as symbol of American ini- 
tiative, 211-212 

Crequy, Renee Caroline, marquise de, 
10, 107-108 

Crevecoeur, Michel Guillaume St. 
Jean de: writes fictitious accounts of 
Franklin, no 

Grof, Emmanuel, due de, 109, 114-115 

258 INDEX 

Dalibard, Jean Francois, 21, 22 

Dalrymple, Sir John, 31 

Deane, Silas, 60, 95-96 

de la Roche, Pierre Louis Lefebvre, 
abbe, 82, 154, 155-156, 161, 162, 164, 
166, 220; his recollections of Frank- 
lin, 170, 187, 199-203, 205, 208, 210 

Delauney (printer?): his Histoire d'un 
pou francois, 113-117 

Delessert, Citoyen, 155 

Diderot, Denis: refers to Franklin, 22, 
144; uses story of "Polly Baker," 

drama about Franklin, 132, 142-146 

Dubourg, Jacques Barbeu, 22, 23, 24, 
105, 119, 121, 168, 192, 206, 220, 235, 
240, 242; corresponds with Franklin, 
25-26, 28; his Calendrier de Phila- 
delphie, 54-59; his deistic tract pub- 
lished by Franklin, 183-184; his edi- 
tion of Franklin's (Euvres, 22, 39-40, 
219; his translation of Way to 
Wealth, 39-42; writes verses on 
Franklin, 134, 136 

Ducarne de Blaugy, 188 

du Deffand de la Lande, Marie Anne, 
marquise, 247-248 

du Pont de Nemours, Samuel Pierre, 
14, 23, 24, 30, 115, 125, 163, 220; 
circulates verses on Franklin, 135; 
praises Bonhomme Richard, 47, 48; 
translated Turgot's epigram, 132 

Eon de Beaumont, Chevalier Charles 

d', 114, 193 

Ephgmerides du citoyen, 23-38, 171 
Espion anglois, 60-65 
Estaing, Charles Henri, comte d', 123, 

133* *4* 

Fauchet, Claude, abbe": his eulogy of 
Franklin, 17, 46, 218-223, 230, 231, 


Fa?, Bernard, 80 

Feutry, Aime" Joseph: his verses on 
Franklin, 135 

Fleury, F. L. T., 220, 221 

Forbach, Mme. de, comtesse douairi- 
ere de Deux Ponts, 137 

Fournier (type-founder), 135 

Fragonard, Jean Honore, 125 

Franklin, Benjamin: passim; descrip- 
tions of, 11, 43, 61, 108, 109, 114, 
115; religious opinions of, 61, 192, 
207, 220, 233; satirized, 107-108, 112, 
113-117, 130, 136; works dedicated 
to, 64-65, 123, 133; works of: baga- 

telles, 159-187, 235; Bonhomme 
Richard or Way to Wealth, 13, 14, 
27 38-59 200, 205-206, 231, 235; 
Experiments, 21-23, 40; Information 
. . . America, 30, 36, 171-172; Mem- 
oirs, 146, 149-158, 190, 203, 204-205, 
206, 207, 217, 224, 231, 235, 236; 
"Mithologie et Morale" or "William 
Henry," 31-38, 160, 225, 235; Ob- 
servations concerning the Increase 
of Mankind, 40-41; "Polly Baker/' 
95-104, 121, 160, 235; Remarks con- 
terning the Savages, 36-38, 171, 225 

Franklin, William, 116, 169 

Franklin, William Temple, 200, 249; 
his edition of Franklin's works, 85, 
1 52- 155, 159-160, 167, 178; presented 
to Voltaire, 9-11, 122 

Galiani, Fernando, abbe, 107, 170 
Gargaz, Pierre Andre": his pamphlet 

published by Franklin, 184-187 
Genet, Edmond-Charles, 67 
George III, 190, 208, 224 
Godwin, William, 99 
Grimm, Melchior, 28, 46-47, 129, 134, 

164, 188 

Grouvelle, Phillipe Antoine, 84-85 

Hancock, John, 111 
Hartley, David, 91, 185 
Helvetius, Mme. Anne Catherine, 84, 
108; friendship with Franklin, 161- 

165, 182, 201, 210 

Hilliard d'Auberteuil, Michel Rene, 
43, 157, 211; his verses on Franklin, 


Holbach, Paul Henri, baron d*, 161 

Houdetot, Elisabeth F. Sophie, com- 
tesse d*, 155 

Houdon, Jean Antoine, 124 

Howell, James, 42 

Imlay, Gilbert, no 

James, Abel, 149, 154 

Jay, John, 127 

Jefferson, Thomas, 95-96, 185, 197, 201 

Johnstone, Charles, 113 

Jones, John Paul: satirized, 112-113, 


Jones, William, 119-120 
Jonson, Ben, 160 
Journal de Paris, 10, 37, 46, 68-72, 78, 

86, 137, 167, 168, 175-181, 208, 246, 

247* 249 



La Bruyere, Jean de, 52, 160 
Lacpede, Bernard, comte de, 204 
Lafayette, Marie Joseph, marquis de, 

120, 123, 143* *94-i95 W> 29 21 4 

La Fontaine, Jean de, 41, 42, 47, 48, 

160, 182 
La Harpe, Jean Francois de, 10, 101, 

127, 134 
La Rochefoucauld, Francois, due de, 

44 5 8 
La Rochefoucauld d'Enville, Louis 

Alexandre, due de, 14, 17, 38, 73, 76, 
149, 161, 208, 214, 220, 221; his eu- 
logy of Franklin, 157-158, 217-218, 
232; sees manuscript of Franklin's 
Memoirs, 151-154, 156; unicameral- 
ism of, 86-88 

Lavoisier, Mme. Antoine L., 76 
Lemaire, Antoine F., 52 
Le Manissier (poet), i39-*4* 
Lemontey, Pierre Edouard, 230 
Le Roux des Tillets, Jean Jacques, 

105-107, 142 
Le Roy, Jean Baptiste, 23, 4* 9* **7* 

220, 222 

Lesqui, Jean Baptiste, 40 

Le Veillard, Louis Guillaume, 82, 149, 
158, 166, 208, 220; sees manuscript 
of Franklin's Memoirs, 151-153, 249 

Lodge of the Nine Sisters, 43, 138, 193- 

i94> 253 

Logan, James, 119 
London Chronicle, 25, 26, 27, 31-32 
Louis XV, 21, 74, 75 
Louis XVI, 43, 69, 84, 105, 140-141 
Luchet, Jean Pierre, marquis de, 107 

Mangin, abb de, 21, 125 
Manilius, Marcus, 129 
Marat, Jean Paul, 145, 215-216 
Marivaux, Pierre de, 160 
Marmontel, Jean Francois, 14, H7-H9 
Masson: translates Turgot's epigram, 

Mathon de la Cour, Charles Joseph, 


Maurin de Pompigny, 144 
Mayo, Charles Joseph, 66 
Mazzei, Phillipi, 95-96 
Memoires secrets, 10, 42, 60-61, 106- 

Mercier de Saint-Leger, 179 
Michaud, Joseph Francois: publishes 

verse on Franklin, 138-139, 218 
Mirabeau, H. G., comte de: celebrated 

in drama, 143; his eulogy of Frank- 

lin, 17, 145, 211-217; translates 
Franklin's remarks on Society of 
Cincinnati, 80-86, 237; treated in 
dialogue, 144-146 

Mirabeau, V. R., marquis de, 24, 41 

Montesquieu, Charles Louis, baron de, 
51, 58, 65, 121 

Montgolfier, Joseph, 189; compared to 
Franklin, 135 

Morellet, Andrd, abb, 14, 36, 73, 81, 
no, 117, 220, 240, 252; anecdotes on 
Franklin, 189-191, 238; appraises 
Franklin's satire, 182; discusses 
Franklin's Memoirs, 150; para- 
phrases Turgot's epigram, 133; per- 
sonal relations with Franklin, 161, 
162, 164, 165 

Morley, John, 103-104 

Newton, Isaac, 228; Franklin com- 
pared to, 130 

Nini, Jean Baptiste, 124 

Nogaret, Felix: translates Turgot's 
epigram, 127, 132 

Nollet, Jean Antoine, abbe, 22-23 

Odell, Jonathan: author of satirical 

verses on Franklin, 130-131, 238 
Otto, Louis, 233-234 

Paine, Thomas, 88, 201, 219, 224 

Palissy, Bernard, 64-65 

Paris, M., 138 

Parmentier, Antoine Augustin, 176, 


Pascal, Blaise, 54 
Penn, William, 52, 219, 228 
Pennsylvania constitution, 74, 86-87, 

123, 221-222, 223, 226-227 

physiocrats, 24-28, 30, 228 

Pitt, William, Earl of rfratham, 202- 


Playfair, William, 112 
Plutarch, 205, 208 
poetry on Franklin, 124-142, 143, 174, 

198, i5 

Polignac, Melchior de, cardinal, 129 
Pougens, Charles: anecdotes on Frank- 
lin, 191-192, 202, 210 
Price, Richard, 82, 83, 87, 151, 152 
prinutivism, 12, 36-38, 95, 222, 225-226 
printers: their commemorative cere- 
mony for Franklin, 143, 232-233 
Prometheus, 66, 122, 123, 125, 196 
Prudhomme, Louis Marie, 214, 215 

260 INDEX 

Pythagoras: Franklin compared to, 
192, 225, 232 

Quakers, 58, 60, 121 

Quesnay, Francois, 24, 27 

Quetant, Antoine Francois, 38, 39, 41* 

42, 45> 47> 5 1 * 52, 53 54 5 
Quinquet (inventor), 177, 180 

Rabelais, Francois, 161, 162 

Raynal, Guillaume Thomas Francois, 
abbe, 14; theory of biological degen- 
eration, 188; translation of "Polly 
Baker," 95-104 

Revolution, American, 62-72, 80, 119- 
123, 145, 157* 202, 211, 221 

Revolution, French, 45-46, 69-71, 77' 
92, 136, 142, 145, 157* l86 > 2 9' 2i3 
219, 228, 233, 236-237 

Robespierre, Maximilien de, 88, 214 

Romilly, Samuel, 83 

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 12, 52, 142, 
143; compared to Franklin, 155-156 

Rush, Benjamin, in, 234 

Saint-Aubin (engraver), 134 
Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustin, 42, 

Saint-Pierre, Charles I. C., abb de, 


Sartine, Antoine de, 112 
Say, Jean Baptiste, 47-48, 49 221 
Serieys, Antoine, 145-146 
Servan, J. M. A., 125 
Smith, William: his eulogy of Frank- 
lin, 130, 234 
Smollett, Tobias, 113 
Smyth, Albert Henry, 178 
Socrates, 12, 66, 174, 182, 205 
Solon, 138, 143; Franklin compared to, 


Soulavie, Jean Louis, abb6, 68-72, 220 
Sparks, Jared, 73 
Stormont, David Murray, viscount, 

196, 222 

Suard, Jean Baptiste, 127 
Swift, Jonathan, 35, 38, 160, 178, 182 

Target, Guy Jean Baptiste, 83, 217; 
writes verses on Franklin, 135 

Taylor, Jeremy, 174 

Theophilantropes, 52-53 

Tickell, Richard, 111 

Torn, Pierre Anastase, 209 

Trenck, Friedrich, Freiherr von der: 
claims acquaintance with Franklin, 
109-110; claims Turgot's epigram, 


Tryon, Thomas, 205 
Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques, 24, 30, 

87, 161, 162, 163, 189, 218, 220, 224; 

his epigram, 16, 123, 136, 236, 238 
Tussaud, Mme. Marie, 12 

Vanderkemp, F. A., 126 

Van Doren, Carl, 178 

Vaughan, Benjamin, 25, 36, 76, 81, 

149; letter of, announcing Franklin's 

death, 151-152, 217 
Vergennes, Charles G., comte de, 62, 

69, 112, 120, 123, 176, 201 
Vicq d'Azyr, Felix, 17, 105-107; his 

eulogy of Franklin, 230-233 
Volney, Constantin Francois Chasse- 

boeuf, 210, 254 
Voltaire, Francois Marie Arouet, 51, 

52, 60, 122, 142, 143, 160, 216, 237, 

253; encourages Gargaz, 185; first to 

attribute "Polly Baker" to Franklin, 

96; Franklin compared to, 220; 

meetings with Franklin, 9-12 

Washington, George, in, 120, 123, 
234; as poetic character, 141; symbol 
of militarism, 209-210 

Watson, Elkanah, 109 

Williams, David, 54 

Williams, Helen Maria, 80 

Wright, Fanny, 197 

Xenophon, 120, 205 
Young, Edward, 52, 192